1826 GMT: Parliament Watch. Outspoken conservative MP Ali Motahari has said that Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- former Speaker of Parliament and member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle --- is not suitable to replace Ali Larijani as Speaker: "People like him believe that defending people's rights is against the nezam (system)."
"During these two days we discussed a number of options to take the agency verification process forward in a structured way," the IAEA's Hermann Nackaerts said. He added, "We had a good exchange of views and we will meet again on Monday," two days before Iranian officials meet the 5+1 Powers in Baghdad.
Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said: "We had fruitful discussions in a very conducive environment. We have made progress on this issue regarding preparing and negotiating the modality framework for resolving our outstanding issues."
1707 GMT: Death to the Rapper. Another cleric has intervened in the episode of rapper Shahin Najafi, reportedly condemned to death by a Grand Ayatollah for his song "Naqi" about the political and social situation of Iran (see separate EA feature).
Ayatollah Alavi Gorgani of Qom, has declared Najafi an "apostate", a crime which carries the punishment of execution in the Islamic Republic.
1223 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kalemeh reports that the father of Ramin Ramezani, one of the first protesters slain after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Mehdi Ramezani was among a number of people arrested in December 2010 as they visited the graves of those killed in the unrest.
Mehdi Ramezani speaking to CNN in March 2010 about his son's death:
1215 GMT: Economy Watch. The conservative website Aftab carries an editorial, by Dr Ahmad Mir-Motahari, "Economy in a Coma". The analyst notes that there is still no approved Government budget for 2012/13 and argues that support payments for subsidy cuts should have been replaced with a social welfare programme. And, in an increasingly common phrase marking Iran as resource-rich but production-poor, he says the Islamic Republic is suffering from the "Dutch disease".
1155 GMT: Nuclear MediaFail. A curious article in The New York Times this morning --- its headline, "Iran Sees Success in Stalling on Nuclear Issue", and lead paragraph are completely at odds with the rest of the text.
The article begins, "As Iran starts a critical round of talks over its nuclear program, its negotiating team may be less interested in reaching a comprehensive settlement than in buying time and establishing the legitimacy of its enrichment program, Iranian officials and analysts said."
However, there is no evidence at all for this. Instead, interviews with the "Iranian officials" point to a different story: they are more than willing to reach a settlement, precisely because it will support the "legitimacy" of their efforts:
Iranians say their carefully crafted policy has helped move the goal posts in their favor by making enrichment a reality that the West has been unable to stop - and may now be willing, however grudgingly, to accept.
"Without violating any international laws or the nonproliferation treaty, we have managed to bypass the red lines the West created for us," said Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei....
In Tehran, Mr. Taraghi was promoting a narrative that might pave the way for public, and political, acceptance of a compromise over a program that has broad public support, even among competing political factions. Enrichment is seen as a matter of national sovereignty and pride.
An explanation for the confusion and contradictions within a single article? Well, it might be noted that it is written by Thomas Erdbrink, the Times correspondent in Tehran. However, there is also a contribution from David Sanger, who has repeatedly been a channel for the scepticism and spin of US officials.
0825 GMT: Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said that Tehran's discussions with the IAEA in Vienna are going well: "We had good talks. Everything is (on the) right track. The environment is very constructive."
A second day of talks is scheduled today.
0627 GMT: The Battle Within. Ahmad Tavakoli, a leading Parliamentary critic of the Government, puts out a new charge, "Some MPs were paid to vote for ministers. I have a film of one MP admitting [this]."
Tavakoli responded to a reported complaint by controversial Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi, "I can defend myself against Mortazavi in court. I will reveal docs against him in istizah to prove who is a liar."
Mortazavi's appointment as head of the Social Security Fund has been criticised because of his alleged involvement, as Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuses and killings in summer 2009 at the Kahrizak detention centre.
Yesterday Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said, after a meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council, "Iran should keep out of the Kingdom's relations with Bahrain, even if the two states decide to form a union."
0610 GMT: Execution Watch. State TV says Majid Jamali Fashi --- former kickboxer and "enforcer" for pro-Ahmadinejad forces after the 2009 Presidential election --- has been hung for his alleged role in the 2010 killing of nuclear physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi.
Jamali Fashi was convicted last August of working for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.
For more on the curious case, see our feature from August 2011, soon after Jamali Fashi's conviction, "How A Kickboxing Champion Became 'Israeli Spy' & Was Sentenced To Death".
0520 GMT: Shutting Down the Lawyers. Human rights attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, under threat of a nine-year prison sentence, has said that he is under regime pressure "to either make television confessions or go to prison. I will go to prison, and I will not [be forced to] leave my homeland." He continued:
They told me that if I didn’t confess, they would enforce my sentence. They talked to me for long periods of time and I did not accept it. I will say now that if one day I say things, they are not credible and I must have been under conditions where I was forced to say those things. I hope God maintains my power.
“Under intense pressure, they asked me to say before television cameras that the Center for Defenders of Human Rights [which Dadkhah co-founded] received funds from foreigners, meaning that we were operators for foreigners, which is not true.
We were a number of lawyers who for our love for our land, our capabilities, and our professional knowledge started the Center and we worked there. Among Iranian lawyers, perhaps a group like ours is rare, a group that has knowledge, capability, and awareness about their work and is so affectionate towards our homeland.
On 28 April, as Dadkhah was representing a defendant in Tehran Revolutionary Court, Judge Abulfazal Salavati said the lawyer had to stand down, as his sentence has been upheld by an Appeals Court and he would be sent to prison soon.
Dadkhah has represented dozens of political prisoners, including former Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi, blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, and Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
0450 GMT: We begin today with a summary from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on the regime's attempt to control international media's coverage:
“Iranian authorities have long been repressing domestic journalists. Now it’s clear that they have turned an eye to neutering international press freedoms also,” said Campaign spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi. “We are increasingly seeing Iranian authorities using intimidation, arrests, censorship, and other methods to restrict foreign media from reporting on Iran.”
A source in the Iranian government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Campaign that Iran’s drive to restrict the ability of foreign media to operate freely in Iran is due to the fears of some officials that international press coverage can undermine their political interests.
“The Intelligence Ministry, the Revolutionary Guards, and the National Security Council are pressuring the Deputy Minister of Culture who oversees the foreign press to give [these security agencies] more control over the way foreign media reports Iran’s politics and economy, as we approach the 2013 presidential election,” the government source said.
The government source also said that the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit is more active than other intelligence agencies in curbing press freedom in Iran. “The Guards believe that the Iranian government showed negligence and ineptitude in allowing foreign journalists to cover the 2009 presidential election and post-election unrest. So, they are trying to exert more control over the presence of foreign journalists in Iran,” the government source said.
Since the June 2009 election, authorities have threatened and interrogated several journalists, contributors, and their family members, as well as Iranians appearing in foreign media, including BBC Persian, Reuters, Newsweek magazine, and The New Yorker magazine.
Many of the cases will be familiar to regular EA readers, but ICHRI adds this nugget of information about the "female ninjas" episode, which led to authorities shutting down the Reuters bureau in Tehran, withdrawing the press cards of the staff, and threatening to put some of them on trial.
The Campaign has recently learned that a few days after the ninja video’s release, the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture (Ministry of Culture) summoned the journalist who was responsible for the report. According to an eyewitness, when the reporter was at the Ministry of Culture’s offices in Tehran, the staff left the offices at one point, and then officers from the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit arrived and interrogated the reporter for several hours. The eyewitness said that the reporter was extremely frightened and was shaking after the interrogation session by the Revolutionary Guards.
The aforementioned government source alleged that representatives of the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit told the Ministry of Culture that “no word was to be said about the interrogation session.”
The Reuters reporter was also allegedly threatened and told that she should not speak about the interrogation, or else she and her family will face further difficulties. The government source claimed that authorities told the Reuters office in Tehran that if any news about the interrogation was ever published, their offices would never re-open.