Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (22 October): A Mysterious Currency Dealer, Real Executions

See also The Latest from Iran (21 October): How High Is the Rate of Inflation?

2130 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. A far from ringing endorsement for the President from conservative politician Asadollah Badamchian: "The Motalefeh Party was against Ahmadinejad since 2005 but supported him because of religious duty. We voted for him in 2009 to prevent Mir Hossein Mousavi [taking office]."

2125 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Back from a break for a seminar in Manchester to find President Ahmadinejad pressing his request to visit Evin Prison in grand terms....

In a letter to head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, who rejected his approach for the second time on Sunday, Ahmadinejad does not mention his detained senior aide Ali Akbar Javanfekr. Instead, he sets out the mission, "I am determined to implement the Constitution and radically reform the Islamic Republic's affairs, visiting prisons and courts."

Earlier, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei had dismissed Ahmadinejad’s request as a “secondary issue”. He said the government should focus instead on solving Iran’s economic problems.

1400 GMT: Regrets Over the President. Hojatoleslam Ali Saidi-Shahroudi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, said he regrets his past support of President Ahmadinejad.

"I admit that I have supported Ahmadinejad in the past, but we did not have the precise knowledge of what is going on in his mind, or what he wants to do in the future," Saidi-Shahroudi said. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could have been a hero, yet he behaved in a way so that people who were on his side switched to the side of opposition and turned against him."

1340 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Labour activist Behnam Keyvani has been released after five months in detention, Green Movement blogger Siamak Namayeshi has been freed after eight months.

1356 GMT: The Battle Within. More trouble ahead? Mehr reports that Parliament intends to investigate the finances of religious foundations.

1149 GMT: Negotiations Watch. Following the report in the New York Times that Iran and the US have been in direct talks over the possibility of one-to-one negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear programme, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, has stated that the Supreme Leader “makes the decision for Iran to enter into bilateral negotiations with the US if expedient".

Boroujerdi added that “such a decision has not currently been made."

1135 GMT: Motahari Watch. Not content with his unexpected defence of the President (see 1059), MP Ali Motahari has taken a jab at the Supreme Leader --- he suggestedg that if MPs ask Ahmadinejad questions only because the Supreme Leader demands it, then they would effectively be Ayatollah Khamenei's questions, not those of the Majlis.

The Supreme Leader's office has sent out signals over the last few days that Parliament should not follow up on the petition by 102 MPs to interrogate Ahmadinejad.

1111 GMT: Disinformation of the Day. Passing on "information" fed to it by unnamed “Western officials" London’s Daily Telegraph alleges that an Iranian official “has set up [an] international money laundering network"

Without naming the Iranian official, the report cites documents “obtained by People’s Mujahadeen, the Iranian opposition group” --- linked to Mujahedin-e Khalq, which has sought the violent overthrow of the regime since 1979 --- that claim “deliveries of half a million euros” have been used to transfer money through Austrian, German and Italian lenders into accounts in Russia and China to pay for goods then sent to Iran.

1059 GMT:has the right to visit Iran’s prisons unannounced if he so wishes.

Ahmadinejad's request to visit Evin prison –-- where his senior aide Ali Abkar Javanfekr is serving a six-month sentence for "insulting Islam" in a special edition of his pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper Iran --- was rejected for the second time by the judiciary yesterday.

0835 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Calls for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme continue as the former head of Israel's Mossad, Efraim Halevy, urged the West to open a dialogue with Tehran.

Meanwhile, Press TV reports the statement of Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania Affairs, Abbas Araqchi, “We are waiting for the response of the Iran’s proposals that can be a rational and just solution for resolving this issue.”

These conciliatory comments follow Sunday's New York Times story --- and subsequent updates on EA ---that claimed Washington and Tehran have agreed to conduct one-to-one negotiations.

0803 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The US State Department’s Persian-language spokesman, Alan Eyre, has posted a video explaining the US-led sanctions and responding to viewers’ questions.

0753 GMT: Inflation Watch. The website Alef has called on President Ahmadinejad to apologise to the Iranian people for the 251% increase in food prices over the last seven years.

Alef --– linked to the conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent critic of Ahmadinejad --- blamed the President for Iran’s lack of economic diversification, over-reliance on oil revenues, and ignorance of the warnings of experts about Government financial policies.

0733 GMT: Prayer Watch. Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Kazem Sedighi has condemned those who trade currency and gold for profit amid Western-led sanctions, accusing them of committing "mohareb" against the Hidden Imam.

The crime can be punished with the death penalty.

0655 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Will he or won't he be interrogated? The fencing over the questioning of President Ahmadinejad by Parliament continues....

Reports this weekend pointed to the compromise of Ministers, representing the President, facing the MPs' questions. Mehr claims the Majlis will decide on the proposal on Tuesday but will insist that Ahmadinejad must appear if legislators reject it.

However, Ali Saeedi, representing the Supreme Leader, has given another signal against the interrogation: "High officials should apologise to people for problems instead of blaming others."

0645 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Fatemeh Hashemi, head of the Foundation for Special Diseases, has said that about six million patients in Iran are affected by restrictions on imported medicines.

Hashemi, echoing reports of about 90 medicines that are not available and sharp rises in prices for others, said, “We feel the shortage primarily for cancer and multiple sclerosis drugs. Of course, thalassemia and dialysis patients are also the targets of these hardships."

Mehr, however, sees the currency crisis as a major contributor to the problem --- it claims there is "not enough foreign currency for import of medicine, while there is a priority for make-up and ice cream sticks".

0625 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reza Khandan, the husband of detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, says the human rights attorney is entering the second week of a hunger strike despite a visit from her family.

Khandan wrote:

She looked much thinner and weaker than I had imagined. Perhaps it is because the past two years have taken a toll on her physical strength and well being. Despite the fact that she was still on a hunger strike, she was the only prisoner who had prepared a lunch behind the cabin window. She had predicted that the authorities may make an exception and allow the children to go to the other side if only for a few minutes and as a result she had prepared their favorite meal. Though Nasrin herself was not eating she was feeding the children while she spoke to us.

Sotoudeh, a leading advocate for activists facing punishment, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2010. The term, accompanied by a 20-year ban on the practice of law, was reduced to six years in September 2011.

0525 GMT: Iran's currency crisis added a note of the surreal this weekend, when 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, asking exporters not to trade currency on the streets, said "open-market" rates --- and thus the weakening of the Iranian Rial --- were determined by one man, "Jamshid Bismillah".

Later Rahimi insisted that "Jamshid Bismillah", far from being a symbol for the illegal currency vendors, was a real criminal who had been arrested, adding that he had no information on the names of 20 other "disruptors" of the currency market. Baztab hit back with a message to President Ahmadinejad, "Fire Rahimi and release Jamshid Bismillah, a.k.a. Abbas Jengir [Abbas the Genie Catcher], to lower the US dollar's exchange rate."

Amid this banter, 10 men accused on drugs charges were executed this morning. Their cases, including that of Saeed Sadighi --- whose mother had repeated her appeal last night for the international community to intervene --- had become prominent in recent weeks when they were raised by Amnesty International and by United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights, Torture, and the Death Penalty. Facing the protests, Iranian authorities delayed the hangings at the last minute last weekend, but moved quickly this weekend to carry out the punishments.

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