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Entries in Maziar Bahari (5)


Iran: Human Rights Watch Statement on Abuse of Detainees

The Latest from Iran (8 July): The Day Before….?

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EVIN PRISONReprint of the original report on the Human Rights Watch website:

8 July 2009

(New York) - The Iranian authorities are using prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats of torture to extract false confessions from detainees arrested since the disputed June 12 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. The confessions appear designed to support unsubstantiated allegations by senior government officials that Iran's post-election protests, in which at least 20 people were killed, were supported by foreign powers and aimed at overthrowing the government.

"The Iranian government is desperate to justify its vicious attacks on peaceful protesters," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "What better excuse does it need than confessions of foreign plots, beaten out of detainees?"

Human Rights Watch has collected accounts from detainees after their release illustrating how the authorities are mistreating and threatening prisoners in a deliberate effort to obtain false confessions.

A 17-year-old boy who was arrested on June 27 and released on July 1 told Human Rights Watch how his prison interrogator forced him and others to sign a blank statement of confession:

"On the first day, while blindfolded, the interrogator took me to a parking garage. They kept everyone standing for 48 hours with no permission to sleep. On the first night, they tied up our hands and repeatedly beat us and other prisoners with a baton. They kept cursing at the prisoners. The atmosphere was very frightening. Everyone had wet themselves from fear and stress. There were children as young as 15 and men as old as 70; they'd be begging and crying for mercy, but the guards didn't care.

"After two days of interrogation while blindfolded, we were asked about everything: where we had studied, what our parents do, who we voted for, who is educated in the family, if anyone in our family is part of the military. We were forced to give the names of everyone. It was a scary situation because they were threatening us and were very harsh. All we could hear were other people crying and screaming.

"They provided us with a big piece of bread once, but no water. On the last day, they took away the blindfold to force us sign a paper that was blank on top but said at the bottom: ‘I agree with all of the above statements.'"

Senior Iranian officials have said that detainees have confessed to their involvement in a foreign-backed plot to overthrow the government with a "velvet" revolution. Mojtaba Zolnour, the representative of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said on July 2 that all the prominent detainees except one had now confessed. During his July 3 Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a high-ranking member of the Guardian Council, said that the government would make public some of the confessions obtained from detainees.

State-backed media already have broadcast the confessions of some detainees. Amir Hossein Mahdavi, editor of reformist newspaper Andishe No, confessed on Iranian TV on June 27 that reformist groups had laid plans to create unrest before the June 12 elections. Friends of Mahdavi who saw his confession told Human Rights Watch that it was clear from his demeanor that he confessed under duress.

Among the detainees who were recently forced to appear on Iranian television is Newsweek's correspondent in Iran, Maziar Bahari. He was detained on June 21 and is believed to be held in Tehran's Evin prison, where Human Rights Watch has documented cases of torture and detainee abuse in previous years. He has not been allowed to see a lawyer or his elderly mother, with whom he lives. No charges have been filed against Bahari, who holds dual Iranian and Canadian citizenship.

On June 30, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that Bahari had given a press conference where he denounced efforts of Western media to stage an uprising in Iran similar to the 1989 Czechoslovak "Velvet Revolution," and confessed to a role in covering these "illegal demonstrations." Newsweek has strongly defended Bahari's innocence and called for him to be released immediately.

Vajiheh Marsousi, the wife of dissident intellectual Saeed Hajjarian, whom authorities arrested on June 15, believes that he is under intense pressure to sign a false confession. After visiting him in Evin prison, she believes that his life is in danger due to his poor health and lack of medical care in prison.

Information about the abuse of Iranian detainees in custody continues to filter in. An eyewitness who visited the Revolutionary Court on July 1 told Human Rights Watch:

"Hundreds of the prisoners' families were gathered in front of the entrance of the court. On the court's wall, a piece of paper listed the names of 1,349 prisoners. This was a list of people that the court would be soon releasing. There was also a separate sheet with another 223 names. It said that the authorities were still investigating the people on this list and that their families should come back in a couple of weeks. In the few hours that I spent before outside the court, I witnessed a number of people being released. Almost all of them had bruised faces and hands. Some of the families, after seeing their sons/daughters in such bad condition, started to cry, while other families claimed their sons or daughters were missing and their names were not listed."

The authorities have arrested thousands of people in a nationwide crackdown aimed at ending mass street protests that started in Tehran and other cities on June 13 after the official results of the June 12 elections gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a landslide victory. Although authorities subsequently released many of those detained, they have continued to make new arrests. Human Rights Watch has collected the names of 450 persons whom security forces have arrested since June 13, including more than a hundred political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, and lawyers.

Most of the best-known detainees have now been held incommunicado for up to three weeks without access to lawyers or family members, raising serious concerns about the probability of mistreatment and pressure to make false confessions.

In the past, the Iranian government has frequently subjected political prisoners to various forms of pressure, including beatings, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, torture, and threats of torture in an effort to force them to make confessions that they have then publicized in order to criminalize and discredit government critics.

Because of this past record of abuse, relatives, friends, and professional associates of several prominent detainees contacted by Human Rights Watch raised concerns about their probable mistreatment in detention and the likelihood that they would be forced to make false confessions.

International human rights law clearly protects detainees from mistreatment, including forced "confessions." Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, states that every person charged with a criminal offense has the right "to communicate with counsel of his own choosing," and "not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt." Principle 21 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states that, "No detained person while being interrogated shall be subject to violence, threats or methods of interrogation which impair his capacity of decision or judgment." A fundamental rule of international human rights law is that all evidence, including confessions, obtained by torture or other ill-treatment must be excluded.

The Latest from Iran (4 July): Breaking the Reformists? Not So Fast....

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2110 GMT: According to his son, pro-reform journalist Isa Saharkhiz has been seized and taken to an undisclosed location.

2015 GMT:Reports that women's rights activist Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh was arrested today in the "Mothers of Martyrs" rally in Laleh Park.

2000 GMT: Now This is Interesting. According to Iran Labor News Agency, Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a meeting with the families of detainees, has said post-election events had caused "bitterness" while denying there was a power struggle in the Islamic state: "I don't think that (anybody with a) vigilant conscience is satisfied with the current situation."

Rafsanjani's manoeuvre should be seen as an attempt to get as much political leverage as possible while distancing himself from any call for massive change: "I hope with good management and wisdom the issues would be settled in the next days and the situation could improve ... We should think about protecting the system's long-term interests."

So Iran's ultimate politician is not going to make any challenge to the Supreme Leader. But here is the unknown from the interview: what does he propose as the fate of President Ahmadinejad?

1805 GMT: We're waiting to get details from a reported national TV broadcast by the Iranian President after the evening news. Meanwhile, here's a bit of political humour from Mr Ahmadinejad:
Addressing Iranian heads of medical universities on Saturday, President Ahmadinejad offered to debate President Obama at the United Nations headquarters in New York before the eyes of all nations of the world.

Given that the legitimacy of the 12 June election has yet to be accepted by a significant portion of the Iranian population, let alone the international community, we can only presume that Mr Ahmadinejad made the offer with a very wide smile on his face.

1650 GMT: Etemade Melli has published a lengthy account of Mehdi Karroubi's meetings with the families of detainees, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

1630 GMT: Another intervention in the clerical debate. The Assembly of Instructors and Researchers at the seminary in Qom have issued a statement calling the Government illegitimate.

1330 GMT: Lawyer Saleh Nikbakht says that Iranian authorities are going to try detained reformist leaders and Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari on charges on endangering national security. Those facing trial include former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former Deputy Minister of Economics Mohsen Safaei Farahani, former Presidential spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and former Minister of Industry Behzad Nabavi.

1300 GMT: Irony Alert. Iran's Press TV English spends several minutes on the "illegal detention" of former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and other activists in Israel and, with apparent innocence, never mentions the possibility of "illegal detentions" closer to home.

Later in the broadcast, Press TV spends an excruciating five minutes, propped up by British journalist Yvonne Ridley, on its full and fair coverage of the post-election conflict and the contrasting intrigue and manipulation of the BBC.

1245 GMT: We're waiting for any news on the "protest in the parks" by mothers of the detained and killed and by other members of the opposition campaign.

Meanwhile, Fintan Dunne has picked up on Robert Dreyfuss's challenging article in The Nation, "Iran's Green Wave". Dreyfuss, who was in Iran in the run-up to the election, is dramatic in his analysis, "A victory by the opposition--as unlikely as it appears in the wake of the regime's crackdown--might let in a lot of fresh air....It's that scenario that Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their IRGC and Basij allies are determined to resist at all costs. And they're prepared to unleash Tiananmen Square levels of violence to make sure it doesn't happen."

Indeed, I think is over-dramatic, both in the portrayal of the aims of the challenge to the election process and its aftermath and in the easy invocation of "Tiananmen Square". As an observation by an empassioned observer who had first-hand experience of the excitement up to the 12 June crisis, however, it's well worth a read.

1030 GMT: As always, Josh Shahryar's "Green Brief" summary on Anonymous Iran is worth a read. Most of the developments have also been reported here, but this information is new to us and of possible significance:
The main University of Sistan o Baluchistan has been shut-down by the government, according to unconfirmed reports. Furthermore, students from the university were dragged out of their dorms and sent home....The Association of Iranian University Graduates has released a statement claiming that, “the government was out to suppress opposition by any means possible escalating from the rigged elections.” Dozens of Iranian university professors have a signed a letter expressing deep anger for the attacks made by security forces on Iranian universities and students.

0945 GMT: More on yesterday's story that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani had declined to lead Friday prayers in Tehran. Media close to Rafsanjani report today that this indicates Rafsanjani is "resigning" from his clerical and political roles.

0910 GMT: More on the Manoeuvring Amongst the Clerics. Friday prayers in Qom, the religious centre of Iran, offer an important clue to a "middle ground" solution. Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, who is also a leading member of the Assembly of Experts, said "errors had occurred" during the election and called on all four Presidential candidates to "come together and give help and cooperation".

0900 GMT: Piling on the Pressure. In an editorial in the "conservative" newspaper Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, an advisor to the Supreme Leader, has accused Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami of "horrible crimes and treason" and added, ""It has to be asked whether the actions of (Mousavi and his supporters) are in response to instructions by American authorities." Shariatmadari asserts that Mousavi is trying to "escape punishment for murdering innocent people, holding riots, cooperating with foreigners and acting as America's fifth column inside the country."

0845 GMT: Nothing to See Here. Go Away. Today's coverage on the Press TV website of the situation in Iran?
"Tokyo has taken a neutral stance towards the recent post-election unrest in Iran, undermining the mainstream portrayal of the events in Tehran" and....

“Western countries have now realized their stance on the Iranian elections was undoubtedly out of line,” head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said.

Not a single word on the site about the internal political manoeuvres, either of the regime or the opposition campaign.

The Iran Crisis (Day 23): What to Watch For Today

The Latest from Iran (4 July): Breaking the Reformists? Not So Fast….
NEW Video: U2’s Concert Song for Iran

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IRAN FLAG The headline in The New York Times is blunt: "Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares". Michael Slackman summarises, "Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution."

Slackman's account, filed from Cairo, is accurate as far as it goes: detainees from former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi to journalist Maziar Bahari as well as the "common people" caught up in a foreign-inspired plot are declaring their guilt in print accounts or televised appearances. However, that account, based entirely on Government websites and a couple of interviews with former detainees, has a wider implication. The "reformist" movement is crippled, if not broken: "“If [the Iranian regime] talks about the velvet revolution 24 hours a day people don’t care. But if reformers and journalists say they are involved in it, it makes the point for them."

You don't look hard very far to find the other side of the story.

Far from conceding defeat in a series of confessions, opposition campaigners are continuing to press their challenge. Indeed, they are doing so by making the issues of detentions and confessions part of their cause. Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami visited the families of detainees. Karroubi declared, "I'm ready for everything & will stand strong to the end." Speaking to Abtahi's relatives, he reassured, "He's physically well but held in a solitary cell."

The wider message? Protest not only remains; it is vital. "If we remain silent/stop protesting," Karroubi warned, "The situation become worse and much more difficult for the ones in prison."

And Mir Hossein Mousavi, on his Facebook page, hasn't given up. In the last 24 hours, his team has posted video of the non-violent, civil disobedience of students at Kashan University (also featured on "Revolutionary Road") and posted excellent guidelines to the use of "micro-media": "FIRE [your post]! You are the only competitor to all the exclusive media who may want to manipulate!" Mousavi has also highlighted the latest statements of Mohsen Kadivar and Ayatollah Yusef Sane'i.

The Sane'i criticism of the regime, posted in English on his website, is particularly important. "Confessions" cannot hide the extent of the debate amongst Iran's clerics. While this does not portend the toppling of the President, let alone the removal of the Supreme Leader or the end of the Islamic system, it does indicate that the public protest continues to interact with the concerns of influential religious figures about the current conduct of the Islamic Republic.

The Doctor Killed Neda: Your Press TV Guide to the Latest in Iran

The Latest from Iran (2 July): The “Gradual” Opposition

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PRESS TVHere, in the half-hour "World News in Full" between 1300 and 1330 GMT, is Press TV English's All You Need to Know on the current Iranian situation:

Item 1 (about nine minutes into the broadcast): Mir Hossein Mousavi "will follow up his electoral complaints through the judicial system". No mention of the opposition campaign's other initiatives, from "human chain" demonstration to general strike. And definitely no mention of the hundreds detained to prevent such initiatives. Followed by....

Item 2: Iran's police chief "has called the death of Neda Agha Soltan a premediated act of murder".

Who did it? "Arash Hejazi, the doctor who witnessed Neda's death, is wanted by Iranian intelligence authorities and Interpol. [The police chief] said Hejazi has given a completely false account of the incident to foreign media. Hejazi, who is studying in England, came to Iran shortly after the post-election unrest started and fled to London a day after Neda's death....[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad has called on the judiciary to investigate the death and find those behind it."

After all, "Neda was shot with a small-calibre pistol which is not used by Iranian security forces."

Followed by....

Item 3: "The unrest after Iran's June 12 election is similar to the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002 when the opposition called for mass demonstrations demanding the vote be annulled...."

In the bloody encounter between pro- and anti-Government protests, "military reports show a number of demonstrators who were targeted with precise head shots by snipers. The military says the snipers were never used by the Venezuelan security forces. Among those shot and killed was a young woman. The video was broadcast repeatedly on opposition TV stations....Many say the scene was staged. Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead in Tehran riots on June 20. She was shot by a small-calibre pistol which was not used by Iranian security forces."

Followed by....

Item 4: "Press TV has obtained new pictures from an attack on a Basiji base during a post-election demonstration in the Iranian capital of Tehran on June 15. The pictures that you are about to see will give you a better understanding of how some TV news channel reports were top-heavy with bias over the developments that were unfolding."

After the reporter describes British Channel 4 News' display of an image of a Basij gunman on the roof of the building while ignoring the violence of the protestors, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari [who, far from incidentally, is detained and was brought before a news conference to make a "confession"] says full footage was given to Channel 4.

The Latest from Iran (1 July): The Opposition Regroups

The Latest from Iran (2 July): The “Gradual” Opposition

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2130 GMT: Orwell Would Be So Proud. From an Iranian source on Twitter:
For the 2nd consecutive night reps of prosecutor general & Cultural Ministry were present in publication house demanding alteration of some pages of the Etememad Melli paper. Those reps asked for omitting the interview of the paper's manager as well as [an] analysis of Iran election. The interview was about the reasons for which the paper's publication was prohibited yesterday.

2050 GMT: According to reports, the pro-Karroubi Etemad Melli was only one of six newspapers banned today.

2045 GMT: We've added English-language extracts to the audio of Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari's denunciation of the Supreme Leader.

2000 GMT: After a three-week blackout, SMS is again working in Tehran. No interruption of the "Allahu Akhbars": "God is Great" is being shouted from the rooftops of Tehran tonight.

1945 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) is also watching Qom, "Keep hearing 2 watch what the clerics say in this phase of #iranelection ex Ayat. Taheri just called this gov illegitimate." (Ayatollah Jaleleddin Taheri is not "ex" but resigned his position as prayer leader in Isfahan in 2002, protesting against the leadership of Iran.)

1925 GMT: More on the Clerical Divide. Mohammad Sahimi of Tehran Bureau is also considering the "differences between hard-liners and leftists [that] go back to 1988", but he adds, "What has been surprising is the reaction of moderate clerics and the silence of clerical hard-liners."

While the Supreme Leader may now have the upper hand over the opposition, Sahimi notes, I think perceptively:
By coming down most definitively on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s side, Ayatollah Khamenei may no longer be considered to be above the fray, or even feign impartiality. He has now become just another politician subject to criticism. This is damaging, not only to the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih, but also to the whole concept of Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam, who is supposed to come back some day to save the world from injustice, corruption and chaos. How can the “deputy” of the hidden Imam be as fallible as the next politician?

1520 GMT: That was fast. Fintan Dunne has already posted our 45-minute conversation (see 1510 GMT) about the current political situation in Iran.

1510 GMT: I just finished two interviews, an hour-long discussion to be broadcast later on the Islam Channel's Politics and Beyond programme on "Western Media and Iran" and a conversation with freelance Fintan Dunne on the political conflict and possible accommodation between the different Iranian parties.

On his website, Mr Dunne raises the possibility that a compromise was possible on Monday morning between the Guardian Council and Mir Hossein Mousavi, only hours before the Council closed off the election as fair and final.

1448 GMT: Etemad Mellinewspaper was shut down today by Iranian authorities when it tried to publish a statement from Mehdi Karroubi. It will be allowed to publish tomorrow.

1445 GMT: Press TV is reporting that three of the four Iranian employees of the British Embassy who were detained have been released.

1430 GMT: Another question from Mir Hossein Mousavi, "How can we ask people to spend their religious faith trusting us when they're being blatantly lied to?" He concludes, "It's our historic mission to continue our protest and not abandon retrieving people's rights."

1345 GMT: Just like yesterday, the morning quiet has been replaced by late-afternoon manoeuvres. The Islamic Iran Participation Front has declared, "The election was the result of a year long coup d'etat...that harmed the establishment's legitimacy inside and outside Iran....We openly announce that the result is unacceptable."

And on his website, Ghalam News, Mir Hossein Mousavi has issued his 9th statement to supporters, asserting that the Government is "illegimate". He has called for the release of detainees. And, cleverly, he has turned the regime's pretext of "foreign interference" back upon the Government: "We're worried that this government due to its multitude of intrinsic and extrinsic weaknesses [may be on the] verge of granting advantage to foreigners."

Mousavi asks, "How can people trust a regime which imprisons its friends, colleagues and children?"

1300 GMT: In the category Funny If It Wasn't So Horrible: "Javan newspaper [linked to the Revolutionary Guard] wrote that Mohammad Ghoochani [the chief editor of Etemad Melli] confessed....[that he] traveled to an Arab country to train for ''soft subversion'. Ghoochani does NOT have a passport and has not traveled abroad in the past two years."

1230 GMT: Remember what we said yesterday about President Ahmadinejad's "Pyrrhic victory"? (We had called the President a "lame duck", but an Iranian colleague said he doubted that Ahmadinejad knew what a lame duck was.)

Here you go....
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called off a trip to Libya for an African Union summit on Wednesday. A spokesman at Ahmadinejad's office said the Libya visit had been canceled. He gave no reason....Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi later told state television Ahmadinejad was too busy to go.

This cancellation is in sharp contrast to Ahmadinejad's show of triumph, four days after the election, when he went to Russia for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting.

Now the question: is the setback for Ahmadinejad "external", with other countries seeing Iran as unsuitable for close contact, or is it "internal", with other leaders putting a leash on the President?

1215 GMT: Very little political movement, but Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) brings a disturbing report that the paramilitary Basiji have asked Iran's chief prosecutor for an investigation into Mir Hossein Mousavi's role in protests, laying nine charges, including disturbing security, against him. The "crimes" carry a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years. The initial story came from Iran's Fars News Agency.

0935 GMT: The Washington Post offers details on the public "confession" of detained Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, which we noted yesterday. Bahari told local news media that he had covered "illegal gatherings" and promoted a "color revolution" on the model of those in Central and Eastern Europe in the last decade. "The activities of Western journalists in news gathering and spying and gathering intelligence are undeniable," he said.

Continuing the Iranian authorities priority on Britain rather than the US as the chief enemy, Bahari was described as a "former BBC reporter".

0925 GMT: More on the debate amongst the clerics of Qom, which we're covering in detail today, this time from the pro-Government side: "The influential head of a Shiite seminary decreed that 'opposing the view of the Guardian Council is not legal, religious or socially acceptable.' Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadai called for a continued clampdown on opposition demonstrations, saying that 'the view of the leadership is the last word, and everybody in the country must obey it,' Fars reported."

0820 GMT: Michael Slackman's story in The New York Times, "Iran Seeks to Close Door on Further Protests", notes a troubling incident to add to the hundreds (thousands?) of detentions:
One of the most recent arrests, of Bijan Khajehpour, an independent political economist, sent a chill deeper yet into Iran’s civil society because he had not been involved in the opposition demonstrations, political analysts said. Mr. Khajehpour had been detained at the airport coming into the country from Britain, and like many others, has disappeared into the notorious Evin prison, raising concerns over the scope of the crackdown and the prospect of a political purge, the analysts said.

“Bijan was perhaps the last independent-minded analyst living in Tehran who continued to travel to Europe and the U.S. and give open lectures about Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He always believed that if he was totally transparent, the government would understand he was not doing anything wrong.”

0745 GMT: We just posted our morning features, an analysis of the post-election debate amongst clerics in Qom and the leaked audio of the criticism of the Supreme Leader by Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari. Moments later, we learned of the latest statement by the philospher and cleric Mohsen Kadivar, a long-time critic of the Iranian leadership, on the "inherent contradiction" between a republic and the iranian system of clerical authority, Velayat-e-Faqih. The Supreme Leader, Kadivar writes, has three options: religious despotism, removal from the Constitutional, or a new form of constitutional leadership.

0515 GMT: There is a regime confidence, rolled out in Press TV English this morning, that it is beyond the election crisis. Interview upon interview with pro-Government Members of Parliament declared: 1) "no one in Qom", referring to clerics, "is talking about the election anymore"; instead 2) there should be a focus investigating and "repair[ing] the damage" caused in the last 18 days (a not-so-veiled attempt to pin responsibility on the "reformists" and, more subtly, a justification of the detentions); 3) it's foreign operatives who caused all this trouble. The last point received the most attention, with a student journalist (message: some of them are on our side) giving the history of outside intervention, supported by footage of CNN set next to images of the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian Government.

A senior advisor to President Ahmadinejad, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, was then interviewed, "President Obama had a very good start" with his promises to change US policy on Iran, the Middle East, and Guantanamo Bay"; however, "he has made many claims and we are still waiting for his action....he is under pressure ....from the neo-conservatives and the Israeli Lobby....We think that the President must be more powerful and must comply with [his] principles."

Yet, for all these bold declarations (there is now even a mention of President Ahmadinejad being sworn in "within the next three months"), the rumbles of political challenge continue. Both President candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami issued statements yesterday that protest would not stop, and their words were supported by reformist parties and the Association of Combatant Clerics. In Qom, which supposedly is not talking about the election, several clerics have come out in the last 72 hours with scathing criticism of the Government.

And, while the public show of defiance receded yesterday amidst the heavy security presence, we have indications that the silence is not a capitulation but a sign that the demonstrators are planning the next move. In particular, we're watching to see if this information stands up: Mir Hossein Mousavi was silent on Monday, but there will be a significant show of resistance in the next 48 hours.