1530 GMT: Economy Watch. Iran has banned the import of 20 food products, including wheat, rice, and beef. The Government has been under heated criticism for sharp rises in agricultural imports, allegedly putting local producers out of business. The issue has been prominent in the campaign for impeachment of Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian.
1515 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student Nezam Hassanpour, arrested in April, has been sentenced to six years in prison for involvement in post-election protests. Five years was given for “activity against national security” and a year for “resistance against government officers”. Children's rights activist Maryam Zia has been sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime". Zia was arrested last December and released more than three months later on $30,000 bail. Hossein Nourinejad has been released after almost a year in prison. Nourinejad was arrested last September on a charge of conspiracy and holding unauthorised rallies. He spent some time in solitary confinement before being sentenced in February to three years in prison. His sentence was reduced on appeal to one year.
NEW Iran Breaking: Latest on Detained US Hiker Sarah Shourd Iran Urgent Analysis: Judiciary Overrules Ahmadinejad — Release of US Detainee Shourd Delayed Iran Interview: Fatemeh Hashemi “Every Iranian Seeking Rights is Green” Iran Exclusive: The Escalating Battle With Ahmadinejad The Latest from Iran (10 September): Khamenei Takes the Pulpit
1340 GMT: We Didn't Like Him Anyway. A bit of a snippy response from the Iranian Foreign Ministry to the resignation of Hossein Alizadeh, the Counselor in the Iranian Embassy in Finland (see 0955 GMT).
Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Alizadeh's mission ended on 20 August,and that the diplomat had asked to remain in the Finnish capital of Helsinki until after his children's school exams. Alizadeh's account is that he stopped working in protest last month. The Iranian Foreign Ministry also initially denied the resignation of Mohammad Reza Heidari, a diplomat working in the Embassy in Norway, in January.
1300 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Earlier today (0633 GMT) we reported that elderly Pan-Iranian Party members Reza Kermani and Hossein Shahryari had been detained. We now learn that the head of the party, Hojat Kolashi, has been arrested.
1250 GMT: More on the Rahnavard Statement. Earlier today (1115 GMT) we noted Zahra Rahnavard's latest interview, published in Rah-e-Sabz. Beyond her recollection of the events of Qods Day --- "There were police, Plainclothes & anti-riot forces all around our house. We sent out a car to check the streets before we left; the car was attacked" --- the activist and wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi spoke about the political significance:
What the protesters were asking for was their vote back. What they demand now is different....Even if Mousavi had won, what we are seeing as the Green Movement would have never happened....The Green Movement has evolved.... In the beginning the Movement was looking for their stolen votes, but it will no longer settle for that.... People have become aware of the atrocities. In the past things were hidden and not mass-published as they are now....The extent of arrests, oppression, censorship, and killings has caused people to want more than just their votes back.... Losers are the ones that confront un-armed people with firearms in their own country.
1235 GMT: Attacking the Clerics. Footage continues to posted of the attack on Qods Day (3 Setember) on the Qoba Mosque in Shiraz. A pro-regime crowd surrounded, entered, and closed the mosque, which is the base of Government critic Ayatollah Dastgheib.
Another video shows close-ups of the attackers. (In the middle of the video, it declares "The Crimes of Ali Mohammad Dastgheib's Thugs", but I think this is meant as a sarcastic comment, as it then shows Qoba worshipers who were injured in the assault.)
1120 GMT: Controlling the Stage. A fascinating and troubling story from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting:
One of Iran’s leading theatres is playing centre stage to the latest attempt by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supporters to take control of cultural and intellectual life. Security staff from Tehran University closed the Mowlavi Hall theatre in the capital Tehran on the evening of June 21. The Mowlavi Hall is the only student theatre in the Iranian capital, and is located on the university’s premises. Iranian news agencies reported that the theatre was shut down because the audience’s dress and behaviour were not in accordance with Islamic rules and customs. A week later, it was announced that the theatre was to be run by Tehran University, whose head of cultural affairs Majid Motaharinejad was placed in charge of managing it. Some of the theatre’s staff were replaced by members of the Basij volunteer force from Tehran University. Motaharinejad later indicated that the culture prevalent at the theatre had been out of step with the Islamic principles of the Iranian regime. Until the takeover, the Mowlavi theatre was run by the University Jihad Organisation, originally set up in 1980 on the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to inculcate revolutionary values in the country’s universities. Over the years, the organisation gradually moved away from those early ideals and – especially under reformist president Mohammad Khatami – developed a taste for the alternative and avant-garde.
1115 GMT: Rahnavard Watch. Zahra Rahnavard has given a lengthy interview to Rah-e-Sabz, discussing the Green Movement in the context of last week's developments around Qods Day and the siege of Mehdi Karroubi's home.
1110 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student Hossein Ghabel has been sentenced to one year of suspended imprisonment, which has to be served within the next four years, and has banned him from using a cell phone and participating in gatherings for four years. Ghabel has also been suspended for two semesters by his university.
0955 GMT: Diplomatic Service. Hossein Alizadeh, the Counselor at the Iranian Embassy in Finland, has spoken about his decision to quit his post. Alizadeh, who said he had served as deputy head of mission, claimed he informed the embassy four days ago of his decision to quit after staying off the job for nearly a month. Alizadeh said he was a "political dissident": “I don’t consider myself any more a diplomat standing beside a brutal Iranian regime.” Alizadeh is the third prominent Iranian diplomat to leave his post in public protest at post-election events, following colleagues who served in Japan and Norway.
0950 GMT: In between commitments, we have posted the latest news on the case of detained US hiker Sarah Shourd --- it's not good, as Iran's judiciary battles President Ahmadinejad and says there will be no release in the near future.
0725 GMT: We'll be on break for a few hours for a run and academic commitments. Back late morning --- in the meantime, over to EA readers for readers and latest news.
0705 GMT: MediaWatch (US). The New York Times offers a summary of the latest developments. Borzou Daragahi in The Los Angeles Times adds an analysis which is parallel to that of EA, "The backtracking may reflect political infighting." An Associated Press report on the New York Times website also considers the "infighting".
0640 GMT: MediaWatch. No significant news in the Iranian media on Sarah Shourd's case, but there is this interesting sentence in Press TV's report, effectively admitting that the President was overruled at the last minute: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had himself intervened in the planned release of Shourd who, along with the two other detained US citizens, has been accused of spying."
0633 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Peyke Iran reports the arrest of Pan-Iranist Party members 77-year-old Reza Kermani and 74-year-old Hossein Shahryari. 0618 GMT: Labour Front. Workers from the Crepe Naz textiles factory in Kermanshah Province in western Iran have protested against unpaid wages.
0615 GMT: Green Media. Readers notify us of another Persian-language site to watch: Emrooz.
0610 GMT: Secure Regime? Green Voice of Freedom claims that the Ministry of Intelligence has built a wall which is 5 metres (more than 16 feet) high, and 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) long around its headquarters in Pasdaran Avenue in Tehran.
0555 GMT: No question about the most dramatic news on Friday, both in its human dimension and in its political implications. With the sudden withdrawal of the decision to release US detainee Sarah Shourd, held in Iran since July 2009 after being seized on the Iran-Iraq border with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the Iranian authorities dealt a cruel blow to a family whose expectations had been built up over the previous 48 hours.
But which authorities? That's the political dimension. While the announcement came from the Tehran Prosecutor General, Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi, the question is who gave the order that contradicted not only the Foreign Ministry and President Ahmadinejad. Our special analysis, written last night soon after the reversal of Iran's position, still thinks that Iran's judiciary --- and, more specifically, the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani and brother, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, have struck in a public display that they can curb Ahmadinejad's moves for power. Others, including some of our readers, think the Supreme Leader made the call.
No major developments so far this morning but we will be watching.