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The Latest from Iran (8 November): Death of a Blogger in Detention?

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Bad Days for Female Political Prisoners
The Latest from Iran (7 November): Posturing on Syria

Blogger Sattar Behesthi with his mother2135 GMT: Confrontation Watch. Three "senior US officials" have told CNN that two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets. belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, fired on an unarmed US Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf last week.

The drone was carrying out "routine maritime surveillance" in international airspace east of Kuwait, the officials claimed.

An official said the US protested the incident but has not heard back from Iran.

2125 GMT: Economy Watch. The Central Bank has said that the annual rate of inflation rose to 24.9% in September/October and that the monthly rate reached 32%.

1745 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The continued bidding among regime officials to take a front seat in renewed talks with the US over Tehran's nuclear programme continues....

On a trip to Indonesia, President Ahmadinejad told reporters today, "“All the member states of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and even the P5+1 countrie [US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany] have clearly told us that Iran should solve this problem with the US."

An EA correspondent noted last month, as sources inside Iran revealed that the Supreme Leader's top aide had met US officials in Qatar, that Ayatollah Khamenei's camp was keen to retain the lead in the manoeuvres, keeping Ahmadinejad on the sidelines.

It is likely that Western media will miss the President's latest attempt to claim centre-stage, as Reuters highlights a different passage from Ahmadinejad's remarks --- saying "the Iranian nation is not seeking an atomic bomb", the President explained, "The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over....Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded."

1710 GMT: Social Media Watch. The online research forum Chimigi has posted the results of a survey:

58% of respondents said they regularly use Facebook and 37% use Google+. Local Iranian network Cloob garnered 14% of responses with Twitter and LinkedIn claiming 12% each. Around a third of those who took the survey said they use social media sites for at least an hour each day.

When it comes to digital consumption and production, the group was equally active. 23% said they post photos and 20% post or repost music or video clips. 22% said they run their own blog and 45% read and contribute to online forums or discussion boards.

1530 GMT: Economy Watch. Iran newspaper reports that the Islamic Republic has banned the import of foreign-made cars, laptops, watches, home applicants, cell phones, coffee, toilet paper, and almost 70 other luxury products to save hard currency.

Hamid Reza Safdel, head of the Iranian state agency for promoting commerce, said import permission for the goods was no longer issued from Wednesday. Some goods already approved for import will still enter the country.

The report said the ban can save $4 billion annually.

1510 GMT: Ahmadinejad Irony Watch. Back from an extended academic and media break to find Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- selected by the Supreme Leader to retain the Presidency after the disputed 2009 election and amid mass protests --- criticising US and European electoral systems.

Ahmadinejad said on the opening day of the 5th Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia, “Elections, which are a major manifestation of the people’s will, have turned into the scene for the propaganda campaign of the capitalists and huge expenses and many independent, decent and efficient figures do not get the chance to participate in [their countries’] rule."

Ahmadinejad questioned democracy in the US and Europe, saying the majority of the people cannot play a determining role in basic decisions.

0740 GMT: Nuclear Watch. More support for talks with the US over the nuclear programme, and this time it comes from the Ministry of Intelligence....

In a report assessing an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the Ministry says ignorance of the possibility of "imminent force" would be an "unforgivable sin". Instead, "one of the options is to take diplomatic and political measures and use the potentials of international bodies, which is a necessary and less costly option."

The report then asserts that President "hopes to solve this issue peacefully and through diplomacy", even as he pursues "severe sanctions", as he does not think Tehran's uranium enrichment is an imminent threat.

0650 GMT: The family of blogger Sattar Beheshti have expressed fears that he died from abuse after he was detained on accusations of activism on Facebook.

Police seized Beheshti from his home in the Robat-Karim, southwest of Tehran, last week. Yesterday relatives said they had received phone calls from prison authorities asking them to collect his body.

Beheshti's sister told exiled journalist Masih Alinejad by phone: "Last Tuesday they raided into our house and took my brother with them....Today they called my husband and asked him to prepare me and my mother and buy a tomb for his dead body."

The Baztab website reported, "Sattar Beheshti, who was arrested by Fata [cyber] police, has died while being interrogated." Saham News, close to detained opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, said Beheshti had died "under torture" during a session with security officials. It also quoted a family member: "They called us today and asked us to collect his dead body tomorrow from Kahrizak." 

The detention centre at Kahrizak became infamous when protesters were abused there, with at least three dying, after the disputed 2009 Presidential elections.

Before his arrest, Beheshti wrote on his blog: "They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don't shut my mouth."

Beheshti's sister speaking to Masih Alinejad:

The website

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