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The Latest from Iran (24 November): Political Prisoners "Enjoy All Rights"

A video, posted on Thursday, remembering those who were killed during the demonstrations on the religious day of Ashura in December 2009

See also Iran Feature: An Activist's Imprisonment Turns a Family Against the Regime
The Latest from Iran (23 November): A Wobble Over Gaza

1745 GMT: A Death in Detention. A source close to the family of Sattar Beheshti, the blogger killed in detention earlier this month, has said that Beheshti’s mother, Gohar Eshghi, was taken to a notary office to sign a form to release officials from responsibility.

Eshghi said she is requesting a meeting with head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani: "I don’t want another Sattar to happen; I beg all authorities to pursue my child’s death and not to let his spilled blood be in vain…I want nothing other than for those responsible for my son’s murder to be punished.”

Eshghi continued to question official statements that her son died from natural causes or illness: "They took my son on a Tuesday and on the next Tuesday they said to come and take his body. How can I believe that his was a natural death?"

On Thursday, the Tehran Prosecutor published a statement about the Medical Examiner’s report, claiming g that the most likely cause of Beheshti’s death could be “shock”. Previous explaination have cited "extreme exhaustion" or "cardiac arrest" from natural causes.

1155 GMT: Gaza Watch. Press TV puts out this soundbite from President Ahmadinejad's phone call to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, “Zionists have reached the end of the road and have no option but to recognize and yield to the absolute right of the Palestinian nation."

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, continuing his regional tour with a stop in Turkey, has pronounced, "You should rest assured that the Zionist regime has harder days ahead.”

1135 GMT: Economy Watch. We have reported several times this year on record amount of Turkish gold moving to Iran. Now we know the reason --- this is the payment for Iran's supply of energy to Ankara.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has revealed to Parliament that Iranians are buying Turkish gold with the Turkish Lira, deposited into their bank accounts in exchange for Turkey’s natural gas purchases. Iran cannot convert the lira into international currency such as US dollars or Euros because of sanctions.

Babacan said, “As Iran could not transfer the payment to [its own banks] in foreign exchange, the country buys gold with the lira and then takes the gold to its country. I do not know how Iran transports the gold, but this is the root of the matter. The gold export to Iran in reality becomes a kind of payment for the natural gas we buy from Iran in deed."

Turkey’s gold sales to Iran in the first seven months of the year were estimated at around $6.2 billion. In August and September, the United Arab Emirates bought around $3.1 billion of gold from Turkey, with sources in the sector saying this was also going to Iran.

1025 GMT: Gaza Watch. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, who linked the Syria crisis and the Gaza "resistance" during his Damascus meeting with President Assad, also put out some colourful words during a stop last night in Beirut:

The victory of the resistance in Gaza indicated that the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese resistance are strategic forces, and this victory was a horrendous tsunami for Israel....

How can they (the Israelis), who have been defeated by the small region of Gaza, engage in a war with Iran? We should ascribe as little wisdom to the heads of the Israeli regime as to understand this issue."

0745 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (US Front). In identical letters to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee has accused the US Navy of “illegal and provocative acts” in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, with violations of Iranian airspace including a US drone flight on 1 November.

The letters urged the UN to warn the U.S. “against the continuation of acts in violation of international law and of the adverse consequences of any provocative and dangerous acts for which the United States government would be held responsible".

Two Iranian fighter jets fired warning shots at the US drone. Washington claimed the incident was over international waters, east of Kuwait.

0735 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syria Front). President Assad met Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Friday. In its report of the occassion, State news agency SANA emphasised the link between Syria and the Gaza War in Larijani's comments:

Of course we made valuable and very important discussions, particularly regarding the events in Palestine and the great victory achieved by the Palestinian people and the Syrian leadership and people. President al-Assad and his father, the late president Hafez al-Assad, had a very important role in the Palestinian Resistance.

At a time when some countries in the region were afraid of sending one bullet to the Palestinians, the Syrian government and people were putting all resources at the disposal of the Palestinian people. This is what made some of the region's countries send armed groups to Syria.

We highly value the role of the Syrian government and people who have always supported the Resistance.

(Cross-posted from Syria and Beyond Live Coverage)

0640 GMT: We begin with comments by Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for the Iranian delegation at the United Nations, for a report by the US Public Broadcasting Service on Iran's detention of dissidents.

After declaring that "political parties and groups enjoys the right of freedom of speech and free activity", Miryousefi responded to a question about lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, sentenced to six years in prison for her defence of activists and other accused:

Ms. Sotoudeh has been duly prosecuted and convicted accordance to Iranian penal court and is serving her imprisonment duration. She has enjoyed her all rights including access to her attorney in accordance with the current laws and regulations. Also she has access to medical facilities and her regular visits with family.

Sotoudeh is in the fifth week of a hunger strike, prompted by her treatment in prison including denial of family visits. Earlier this month, nine other women political prisoners also went on hunger strike --- now ended --- over issues such as aggressive inspections of their bodies by prison guards.

Miryousefi did not directly respond to a question about the Islamic Republic's "severe clampdown" on journalists and human rights activists, saying that the latest report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur "does not meet the least requirements". His answer to US claims over Iranian detentions, abuses, and use of the death penalty was also evasive, preferring to assert "gross and systematic violation of human rights" by America.

The full transcript:

PBS NewsHour: We have obtained interviews with several Iranian journalists and activists and their spouses asserting that the Iranian government is arresting and imprisoning many dissidents simply for criticizing the regime. Does the government tolerate dissent? Why have so many people been arrested?

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman, Iran Mission to the United Nations: According to Iran's constitution, the political parties and groups enjoys the right of freedom of speech and free activity in the light of the country laws and regulations, then right now, there are many active political parties and group in Iran's political sphere.

PBS NewsHour: One activist, attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been imprisoned, after defending juveniles and others, including Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Sotoudeh and her husband claim her arrest was because "she insisted on going through with political prisoners' cases," and that she talked with the media. Could you comment?

Alireza Miryousefi: Ms. Sotoudeh has been duly prosecuted and convicted accordance to Iranian penal court and is serving her imprisonment duration. She has enjoyed her all rights including access to her attorney in accordance with the current laws and regulations. Also she has access to medical facilities and her regular visits with family.

PBS NewsHour: The U.S. State Department -- in a report on human rights -- says the government of Iran has carried out hundreds of executions without due process, arrested and tortured protesters and detained more journalists than nearly any country in the world. How do you respond?

Alireza Miryousefi: The U.S. has a long list of gross and systematic violation of human rights both at home and abroad. These violations have been repeatedly criticized by different U.N. mechanisms, NGOs and even recently by a former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter.

Besides the abhorrent story of the Guantanamo prison, there are many more acts and practices that simply count for blatant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights by the USA including but not limited to its unconditional support for the crimes committed by the Zionist regime; killing of innocent civilians by unmanned drone attacks; establishing secret detention centers in various parts of the world; humiliating and torturing detainees and using inhuman interrogating methods such as water boarding; deaths in custody, torture and ill treatment inflicted by United States military and non-military personnel or contract employees in detention facilities in overseas locations.

At the domestic level, different forms of discrimination against ethnic groups, blacks, immigrants and other people in vulnerable situations; continuation of depriving indigenous peoples of their rights; violation of minority rights; Islamo-phobia, defamation of Islam in the Media, incitement of hatred and insulting acts against Muslims and Islamic sanctity; unchecked power entrusted to the FBI, National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies to tap telephone conversations without court's sanctions, as well as to intercept electronic and regular mail of individuals and organizations just on the grounds of suspicion to terrorism.

PBS NewsHour: The U.N. Human Rights office declared that Iranian authorities have embarked on a "severe clampdown" on journalists and human rights activists. How do you view that report?

Alireza Miryousefi: Organs of the United Nations are required to use reliable authentic sources in preparation of reports. The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly believes that the Special Rapporteur report, on the basis of ill-intended and biased sources of information gravely and irreparably damages the status, image and credibility of the United Nations and its affiliated bodies and will result in the erosion of confidence of governments and world public opinion in the organization and its reports.

The Islamic Republic of Iran further believes that leveling general allegations in the absence of authentic and reliable evidence aimed to serve propaganda and the exercise of pressure against particular independent states have no value and validity and are not worth the name of reports of the United Nations.

Unfortunately, the report of the Special Rapporteur does not meet the least requirements referred to above.

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