Iran Election Guide

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Thursday
Nov112010

The Latest from Iran (11 November): "The Safest Country in the World"

1440 GMT: Cartoon of Day. Nikahang Kowsar portrays the rejection of Iran's candidacy for the Execution Board of a new UN agency on women's rights --- the UN says to a disguised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "Sister! You Don't Look Much Like A Woman."

1435 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Tabriz student activists have protested the ongoing immunity of Iranian officials from prosecution over the post-election abuses and killings at the Kahrizak detention centre.

The demonstration took place on the anniversary of the death, in mysterious circumstances, of Ramin Pourandarjani, a physician at Kahrizak.

1425 GMT: The Reformist Word. Etemade Melli newspaper, which had been shut down by the Iranian authorities in September 2009, has reportedly resurfaced in a one-page format with three issues per week planned in a testing phase.

1230 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained attorney Nasrine Sotoudeh has been allowed to see her husband, Reza Khandan, as well as her sister and brother.

Khandan said that, contrary to reports yesterday, Sotoudeh has not ended her hunger strike, now in its second week, although she is drinking water. The lawyer has been on an IV drip twice during the strike and, according to Khandan, has lost 30 pounds and is "extremely thin & hardly recognisable".

On another front, HRANA reports that attorney Mohammad Mostafaei, now in exile in Norway, has been sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.

Mostafaei left Iran earlier this year to avoid arrest. He has represented clients such as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery.

1220 GMT: Foreign Meance Update. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has given his latest newsflash on sedition: groups of people related to the 2009 "fitna" are now in London, backed by the British intelligence service MI6.

Hmm. Have to think that is a personal message to the UK-based Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, that the regime is still marking his movements.

1150 GMT: Restore the Law. Two former high-level officials, Hassan Rouhani and Ali Younesi, have claimed that a lack of judicial security has caused brain drain and capital flight, preventing freedom and development. They argue that independence of judges, the right to have an attorney, and presumption of innocence are fundamental rights ensuring judicial security.

1125 GMT: For My Next Trick. You have to admire the President's confidence. Even though he has not yet implemented subsidy cuts, let alone seen if they were successful, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that he will follow this by reforming the banking system and slashing unemployment amongst youth.

The President may want to hold off a bit, however. His Minister of Trade, Mehdi Ghazanfari, has said that, after the subsidy cuts, prices will return to normal within five years.

1110 GMT: Corruption Watch. The head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has complained about obstacles to investigation of the frauds of government officials: "some forces have interfered in the judiciary, which should be independent".

1050 GMT: That Khamenei Road Show in Qom. There is yet more fallout over the Supreme Leader's recent effort to get clerical support with two ventures --- the first of 10 days, the second a quick trip last Friday --- to Qom.

As we noted earlier this week, Fars spilled the beans on the latest secret meeting, thanks to a member of the Seminaries Council. He revealed that the discussions included state broadcasting, "bad hijab". Most significantly, Ayatollah Khamenei answered doubts about the President by saying that, while he disagreed with the Government at times, Ahmadinejad would "obey" him.

I suspect this revelation might upset some by making the President look a bit weak. So it is no surprise to learn that Jahan News has expressed dismay over the revelations, blaming "seditionists" for abusing the Supreme Leader's "secret measures".

1010 GMT: Women's Rights. We've posted a separate analysis on the outcome of the vote for the Executive Board of the new UN organisation on women's rights, with Iran failing to get a seat.

Martin Fletcher of The Times of London also offers coverage and analysis. Indeed, it was Fletcher who tipped off developments last Saturday, "Amid growing outrage at the idea of one of the world's most repressive regimes joining such a body, [Western governments and human rights organisations] have persuaded two Asian countries to submit last-minute bids for seats so that Iran's application can be contested....They are now lobbying the 54 members of the UN Economic and Social Council to reject Iran in the vote next Wednesday."

In the end, it was only East Timor that jumped in at the last minute, but that was enough to block Tehran.

1000 GMT: Claim of Day (2). Peyke Iran reports that unidentified attackers have set fire to the building of the Babol Municipality in northern Iran, destroying all its documents.

0905 GMT: Picture of Day. An Iranian blogger offers "Inflation in Action", with two photographs of mushrooms. Not much difference except that, in four days, the price has risen by 30%.

0900 GMT: Claim of Day. It comes not from the regime, but from one of its most fervent opponents. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his US tour, tells Fox News:

Iran's reach is far and wide. I mean, look at what they're doing today. They're in the Arabian Peninsula with a beachhead in Yemen. They're in Eritrea. They're in Sudan, in Africa. They're obviously in Lebanon and in Gaza, we see them. They're here in this hemisphere, in South America.

0825 GMT: Challenging the Regime's Forces. Rooz Online has published the text of the defence in court of prominent film director Jafar Panahi.

The trial of Panahi, arrested in March and detained for almost three months, began Sunday.

0815 GMT: Recognising Rights. Sussan Tahmasebi of the One Million Signatures campaign for civil society and women's rights in Iran is one of six recipients of the 2010 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.

Tahmasebi dedicated her award, presented by Human Rights Watch to detained women activists.

Tahmasebi spoke of concern about imprisoned attorney Nasrine Sotoudeh, saying, "[She] has dedicated her life to defending the rights of the accused, often at great risk to herself and her family. Now she is behind bars, for no other reason than being unwilling to compromise with authorities when it comes to safeguarding her clients' due process rights."

Tahmasebi also expressed concern about women serving or facing lengthy prison sentences, including student activists Bahareh Hedayat, Shabnam Madadzadeh, and Mahdieh Golroo, journalists Jila Bani-Yaghoub, Mahsa Amrabadi, and Hengameh Shahidi, human rights activists Shiva Nazar Ahari and Aliyeh Eghdamdoust, Mothers of Mourning members Jila Tarmasi and Akram Zienali, and Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli of the One Million Signatures campaign.

0745 GMT: Reformist Front. Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News has put outsa lengthy statement that, although there is uncertainty whether the regime has lifted the ban on Karroubi's party Etemade Melli, its political activities will continue.

0735 GMT: Hezbollah's Mis-Statement? Here's one to watch between Iran and Lebanon....

Last week Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah made a highly-publicised video address in which he declared that Iran was "Islamic" as there was no such thing as "Persian civilisation".

On the surface, that statement would seem to chime with the protests of Iranian conservatives against the call of Ahmadinejad advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai for emphasis on an "Iranian school of thought".

Nasrallah, however, went so far as to say that Iran had been founded by "Arabs". Too far, possibly, for an EA source reports, "Even the most Islamic of Iranians are still Iranian and are very insulted by his saying they are not Iranian, but Islamic.".

The debate continues: BBC Persian has a forum for discussion.

0620 GMT: We begin today with a reassurance from Iran's Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, "Today, even the enemy confesses that this Revolution and establishment are the most powerful, safest and dignified nation with the least problems in the Middle East and the world."

For cynical EA readers --- do I hear mutterings of "Evin Prison"? --- Mohseni-Ejei adds that the wisdom and unity of the people and officials foiled dangerous internal and external plots aimed at dividing the people and the regime: "Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is a deterrent and defensive force against all bullying nations, especially America and its accomplices."

Unfortunately, Abolfazl Ghadiani, a senior member of the banned reformist party Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, does not seem to be listening, as he condemned President Ahmadinejad’s “irrational policies” for leading Iran into a series of deep crises.

Ghadiani also maintained that "the elections were rigged and after the elections, they carried out a coup”.

After the June 2009 vote, Ghadiani was arrested, charged with “propaganda against the regime and insulting the president", and sentenced to a year in prison and a monetary fine. 

Ghadiani challenged the ban on the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution: “I stressed in court that this order is illegal. We were not summoned to court; they did not talk to our lawyer and we were not issued a court order. Therefore, we cannot consider the dissolution of the organization to be a legal order.”

Ghadiani concluded, "[Only] faithful execution of the constitution, release of all political prisoners, assuring freedom of speech and assembly, as well as compensating post-election victims can lead Iran out of this crisis.”

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