Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (4 December): Regime Concern over Political Prisoners?

State outlet Press TV on Revolutionary Guards' capture of a US dronem, announced today

See also Iran Analysis: A Debate Over Ahmadinejad's Political Future
Monday's The Latest from Iran (3 December): Medicine and Sanctions

2100 GMT: Book Corner. More than 100 Iranian writers, poets, and translators have called for an end to book censorship in an open letter.

The literary figures want the abolition of the requirement that writers obtain authorisation from the Culture Ministry before publishing:

Iran is one of the rare countries in the beginning of the 21st century where authors have to ask for a license from the state in order to publish their books, even though the requirement is not stated in the constitution....

In reality, this method amounts to hostage taking of freedom of expression, creativity, and the livelihood of writers by the government in order to impose its ideas on the authors.

1830 GMT: Nasrin Sotoudeh's Hunger Strike. Back from an academic break to find that detained lawyer Nasrine Sotoudeh has ended her hunger strike after 49 days.

Sotoudeh's husband Reza Khandan wrote Reza Khandan wrote on his Facebook page that the attorney ended her fast after authorities lifted the ban on her 12-year-old daughter from travelling outside the country.

Sotoudeh, the winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, is serving a six-year sentence on charges of acting against national security and spreading propaganda. Earlier this week, the gathering concern over her case led MPs to announce they would visit Evin Prison to investigate the conditions under which she was held.

1515 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. President Ahmadinejad has used the ceremonial opening of industrial projects in Isfahan Province to declare, "The Iranian nation will not only bypass the embargos, but will overcome the sanctions."

1035 GMT: Drone Watch. Fars has posted celebratory footage of Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards naval forces, inspecting the US ScanEagle drone in front of a large map of the Persian Gulf and the text: "We Shall Trample on the US".

A spokesman for the US Navy 5th Fleet in Bahrain said no drones were missing; however, that may not address the Revolutionary Guards' assertion that the drone was captured a month ago.

Promotional video of the ScanEagle drone:

0925 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. In our analysis this morning of President Ahmadinejad's future, we noted that one of his latest attempts to assert power was his swipe at Parliament --- he said that while each MP had taken his seat with the backing of a few peoples, the President had won the votes of a majority of all Iranians.

Essikhan Sadeghi-Boroujerdi has more:

Addressing the Majlis, Ahmadinejad [said], “You think it is the Qajar era (referring to the monarchical dynasty which ruled Iran in the 19th century) and despotism still rules.

“The will of the people is above all the institutions and no institution can impose its own interpretation on the people. Of course it is possible that some say the people don’t understand, and that just what we say is implemented, but we must say that the Constitution became credible for implementation with the vote of the people.”

Meanwhile, Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the "hard-line" Kayhan, has challenged Ahmadinejad's appointment of his right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, as head of the secretariat of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Shariatmadari, claiming that "attention is not being paid to Islamic and national interests", wrote, “Ahmadinejad has again and for the umpteenth time stepped into the circle of deceit of the deviant current.”

0920 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Is this a sign that Tehran is giving up on nuclear discussions, at least in the near-future --- or is Iran just playing hard to get? Hojatoleslam Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader representative's of the Supreme Leader to the Revolutionary Guards, has dismissed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's public reference to the possibility of direct talks as "deception".

0840 GMT: Drone Watch. The Revolutionary Guards are claiming the capture of another US drone.

Iranian media report the ScanEagle drone was gathering information over Persian Gulf waters and had entered Iranian airspace when it was captured by a naval unit of the Guards.

In November 2011, a US drone was downed in eastern Iran --- the Americans said because of technical problems; the Iranians said because of interference with the control of the aircraft. Last month, Iranian fighter jets fired warning shots at a US surveillance drone over waters east of Kuwait.

0650 GMT: It would be an exaggeration to say that the regime is reconsidering its detention of hundreds of political prisoners since the disputed 2009 Presidential election, but two incidents this week point to a bit of concern about individual cases that might grab public attention.

On Monday, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei told a press conference that blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died during interrogation in prison last month, was beaten.

After initial denials that Beheshti had suffered any injury, regime officials have been edging towards the admission over the last three weeks. They initially acknowledged that the blogger, seized on 30 October and dead four days later, had bruises in five places on his body. Last week, the acknowedgement that he was beaten emerged, with the sacking of Tehran's head of cyber-police for negligence and failure to control staff.

However, Ejei still held the line that the beatings were not the cause of death. He repeated the claim, set out by the Tehran Prosecutor General in mid-November, that Behesthi probably succumbed to "physical or psychological shock". 

Even so, the public statements by Iranian officials are the first acceptance of abuse of detainees since the 2009 Kahrizak case, in which at least three post-election protesters --- including the son of a top conservative political activist --- were killed.

Even more surprising in the last 48 hours has been the recognition of the case of imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is now on Day 49 of her hunger strike over her treatment. After an MP said for the first time this weekend that there might be a need for investigation, reports circulated Monday that legislators would visit Evin Prison.

Sotoudeh, a prominent defender of activists in court, was arrested in September 2010 and eventually sentenced to six years in prison and a 10-year ban on practice of law. Her husband, Reza Khandan, said this weekend that her health is rapidly deteriorating.

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