In Tehran, opposition and government gather forces on eve of 22 Bahman (Source: LA Times)

By , February 11, 2010 1:40 pm

The expected protests on February 11 have prompted Iranian officials to order sweeping arrests and a media crackdown punctuated by occasional demonstrations of leniency toward certain political prisoners including Kian:

“Helicopters circled overhead Wednesday as municipal workers erected refreshment stands in Tehran’s Azadi Square in preparation for Thursday’s nationwide celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic, according to eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, opposition protesters are steeling themselves for an impending showdown, coming up with slogans such as “Yes, Islamic Republic, but not dictatorship”; “The continuation of revolution is to fight despotism”; and “Death to oppressors, whether in Gaza or Tehran,” according to a witness.

“The regime is really scared,” one resident of the capital wrote in an e-mail to The Times. “Anytime [the helicopters] fly over my domicile, everything trembles.”

Major television channels Wednesday were dominated by footage of previous years’ rallies accompanied by patriotic songs and scrolling tickers that read, “The Iranian nation will rise up on 22 Bahman and will voice their cries of freedom and anti-tyranny.”

Alternative media outlets and social networking sites were abuzz with rumors of “shoot to kill” orders and Chinese paintball guns for tagging protesters.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed that the government will be “the sole owner of 22 Bahman,” but the authorities aren’t taking any chances.

Security forces have announced that no opposition will be tolerated, and have arrested several individuals for preparing “deviant slogans.”

“If anyone wants to disrupt this glorious ceremony, they will be confronted by people and we too are fully prepared,” Police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam told Fars news agency.

The judiciary also sent a strong message Wednesday, sentencing one protester to death and eight to prison for participating in protests in December, and upholding sentences for 35 people arrested in connection with the post-election unrest, according to the website Dadsara.ir, the official news outlet of the judiciary.

An appeals court did, however, reduce the Iranian American academic Kian Tajbakhsh’s sentence from 15 to five.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders says more than 65 journalists and “netizens” have been imprisoned in Iran.

“This is a figure that is without precedent since Reporters Without Borders was created in 1985,” the organization’s secretary-general, Jean-François Julliard, said in a statement on the group’s website. “The detainees include journalists based in Tehran and the provinces.”

Those with connections to opposition figures are also reportedly being rounded up. The nephew of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was detained after security forces summoned him to Evin Prison to “answer to some questions,” and two senior members of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution have been dismissed for their cooperation with Mousavi’s presidential campaigning committees.”

[Link to article]

Iran: The Politics of Resistance (Source: New School for Social Research)

By , February 10, 2010 1:46 pm

A conference dedicated to Kian entitled “Iran: The Politics of Resistance” is scheduled to be held at the New School in New York City this Friday, Febraury 12.

[Conference program]

Iran court cuts jail term for U.S.-Iranian scholar (Source: Reuters)

By , February 10, 2010 1:35 pm

Although Kian’s 15-year sentence has been reduced to 5 years on appeal, the struggle to free him continues. The news was announced by his court-appointed (as opposed to independent) lawyer in advance of tomorrow’s expected protests:

“TEHRAN (Reuters) – An Iranian appeal court has reduced to five years the jail sentence for an Iranian-American scholar detained after last year’s disputed election and accused of espionage, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday.

In October, official media said Kian Tajbakhsh was sentenced to more than 12 years in jail.

“The appeal court sentenced my client … to five years in jail,” said lawyer Houshang Azhari, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

“It was a very good reduction … about two-thirds of the initial sentence,” he said.

Last year, the U.S. State Department said it had been told that Tajbakhsh was jailed for 15 years and it urged Tehran to immediately release him, saying the United States was deeply concerned about the long jail term.

Tajbakhsh was among thousands of people detained after the presidential poll in June last year, which plunged the Islamic Republic into turmoil. He was accused of espionage and acting against national security.

The moderate opposition says the vote was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Officials deny the accusations.

Iranian authorities have portrayed the protests that erupted after the election as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic Republic’s clerical leadership.

Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds a doctorate in urban planning from Columbia University, was first arrested by Iranian authorities in May 2007, charged with spying and then released after more than four months in Tehran’s Evin prison.

The United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the revolution, accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is to generate electricity so it can export more oil and gas.”

[Link to article]

Kian Tajbakhsh’s 15 year sentence will be overturned (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

By , February 10, 2010 1:31 pm

Prior to the verdict on Kian’s appeal, his lawyer explained that his sentence should be overturned:

“Replying to a question from International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the case of Kian Tajbakhsh, a post elections prisoner whose case is in an appeals court, Kian Tajbakhsh’s attorney said: “Regarding the appeals request I filed with the Revolutionary Courts after the initial court’s verdict, soon we expect an appeals verdict and God willing, through efforts and existing evidence, this ruling will be overturned.”

Massoud Shafiee told the Campaign that by reviewing Kian Tajbakhsh’s case, he has come to the conclusion that no crime has taken place and he has asked the Appeals Court to consider exonerating his client. “I have asked for an exoneration and I hope that the fair judge would consider the evidence in the case and rule for my client’s innocence.”

Referring to Tajbakhsh’s initial court, his attorney also said: “He had a court appointed lawyer in the initial court. In the beginning of his case he had bail orders. When I entered the case at appeals stage, I noticed that his bail orders had been converted to detention orders.” He emphasized that he has read the case and he is sure that the ruling will be overturned.

Kian Tajbakhsh’s initial bail was set at $500,000. According to Shafiee, he can meet with his family every Thursday and is currently in a house outside the prison with other post-elections prisoners. His detention location is under the custody of IRGC. Previously, he was kept in IRGC’s Ward 2.”

[Link to article]

Joint EU-US Statement Calling on the Iranian Government to Fulfill Its Human Rights Obligations (Source: White House)

By , February 8, 2010 1:29 pm

On the advance of expected protests in Iran on February 11, the United States White House and European Union have issued a statement calling on Iran to respect human rights:

“The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election. The large scale detentions and mass trials, the threatened execution of protestors, the intimidation of family members of those detained and the continuing denial to its citizens of the right to peaceful expression are contrary to human rights norms.

Our concerns are based on our commitment to universal respect for human rights. We are particularly concerned by the potential for further violence and repression during the coming days, especially around the anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding on 11 February. We call on the Government of Iran to live up to its international human rights obligations, to end its abuses against its own people, to hold accountable those who have committed the abuses and to release those who are exercising their rights.”

[Link to statement]

Clinton urges Iran to ‘unilaterally release’ Americans (Source: AFP)

By , February 3, 2010 5:22 am

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters in Washington with Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, renewed calls for the unconditional release of Americans held in Iran including Kian:

“WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday on  Iran to “unilaterally release” three hikers and other Americans in Iranian custody as she denied there were any negotiations on a prisoner swap.

In a state television interview, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineja said Tuesday that talks about exchanging prisoners with Washington were underway when asked about the fate of three American hikers detained in Iran…

“There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens,” the chief US diplomat said.

Clinton repeated previous demands that all US citizens held in Iran should be released “without delay” on humanitarian grounds because their detention “is baseless.”

Earlier, her spokesman Philip Crowley dismissed the idea of a prisoner swap with Iran, saying Americans in Iranian custody cannot be equated with Iranians convicted in US courts.

“We’re not interested in a swap per se,” Crowley told reporters. “We are interested in resolving the cases of our citizens.”

Iran is holding a number of US citizens in custody, including hikers Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested on July 31 after wandering over the Iraq border into Iranian territory.

Crowley added that Washington also wants the release of US citizens Reza Taghavi and Kian Tajbakhsh, and remains concerned about the fate of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing during a visit to Iran in 2007.

“There’s not really an equivalence, if you will, between, say, an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and or convicted of arms trafficking, in violation of… international law, and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border,” Crowley said.

But he and Clinton repeated the US stand that Washington remained open to questions from Tehran about Iranians held in the United States.

“To the extent that Iran has questions about Iranian citizens in US custody, we would remain… willing to entertain those questions and facilitate consular access, if that’s what Iran desires,” Crowley said.

Iran alleges that 11 Iranians are “illegally” detained in the United States, including nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who went missing in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimage to Mecca last year.

Crowley said he did not know how many Iranians were in US custody.

In a case unveiled for the first time on December 2 last year, US prosecutors said an Iranian man, Amir Ardebili, pleaded guilty in May 2008 to 14 counts of violating US arms control rules.

Court documents obtained two weeks later by AFP showed he had been sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking weapons to Tehran.

Prosecutors said Ardebili was apprehended in an unnamed Central Asian country in October 2007 and extradited to United States, where he had been secretly detained since January 2008.

The State Department said an Iranian government representative could visit him.”

[Link to full article]

“We’re prepared to listen” (Source: Politico)

By , February 3, 2010 5:18 am

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer was quoted in the influential blog Politico urging the resolution of Kian’s case, along with those of other missing and detained Americans in Iran:

“…In what was being reported as a potentially signficant shift, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iranian State Television today that Iran is ready to send its uranium abroad…

A western diplomatic source said Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect that Iran is nervous about the threat of further sanctions and pressure…

Ahmadinejad also reportedly told Iranian State TV that Iran would consider exchanging U.S. citizens being detained in Iran for Iranians being held abroad. “We are having talks to have an exchange if it is possible,” Ahmadinejad was cited. “We are hopeful that all prisoners will be released.”

The NSC’s [Mike] Hammer stressed that the reports of what Ahmadinejad said are fragmentary, and the U.S. has not entered into any discussion with Iran about an exchange.

“We have made clear that we would like the cases of all our missing and detained Americans citizens to be resolved,” Hammer said, including those of “Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, Kian Tajbakhsh, Reza Taghavi, and Robert Levinson.”

Shourd, Fattal and Bauer have been detained in Iran since accidentally wandering into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq last summer. Tajbakhsh is an Iranian-American scholar arrested in Iran in the post-elections dispute. Robert Levinson is a former FBI agent who went missing while meeting a contact in Kish Island almost three years ago.

“If President Ahmadinejad’s comments suggest that they are prepared to resolve these cases, we would welcome that step,” Hammer continued. “But we have not entered into any discussion with Iran about an exchange. As we have indicated publicly, if Iran has questions about its citizens in U.S. custody, we are prepared to answer them.”

POLITICO previously reported that Swiss diplomats acting as intermediaries have told U.S. officials that Iran was seeking to link the case of the three U.S. hikers detained in Iran, and several Iranians detained in the U.S., Europe and Canada, many on export control violation-related charges.”

[Link to full article]

Iran puts 16 protesters on trial (Source: Associated Press)

By , January 31, 2010 7:11 am

AP writer Nasser Karimi mentioned Kian in his summary of Iran’s latest show trial:

“TEHRAN – Iran put 16 opposition supporters detained during anti-government protests last month on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran’s state media reported…

The new prosecutions, coupled with the execution on Thursday of two men accused of involvement in anti-government groups, could mark an attempt by Iran’s hardline leaders to intimidate the opposition ahead of a new round of street demonstrations expected in February…

The protesters have presented Iran’s cleric-led establishment with its biggest challenge since the 1979 revolution despite a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds imprisoned…

During previous mass trials in Iran, many human rights groups have cautioned that..confessions are often made under duress in Iran…

Iran’s hardline government has quashed opposition rallies and tried more than 100 political activists since August, sentencing 11 people to death and more than 80 people to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years…

Iran held its first postelection mass trial in August, accusing more than 100 activists of plotting to overthrow the regime. Those prosecutions brought charges against some prominent reformist opposition politicians, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and the leader of the biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mohsen Mirdamadi.

There were also three foreign citizens — Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship, and a 24-year-old French academic, Clotilde Reiss — among those on trial. Bahari has since been released on bail and has left the country.

Despite the crackdown, opposition activists have continued to hold sporadic, large street rallies. The opposition says Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June election was fraudulent and call for his removal — though some in the movement have expanded to criticize Iran’s clerical leadership.”

[Link to full article]

Kian’s birthday (Source: Family and Friends)

By , January 25, 2010 6:07 am

If you would like to send Kian a wish on his birthday or sign the online petition calling for his release, please do so here.

“Family and friends of Kian Tajbakhsh extend their love and best wishes to Kian on his birthday.”

Iran’s Post-Election Unrest is Now a Full-Blown Human Rights Crisis (Source: Human Rights Watch)

By , January 24, 2010 7:07 am

At a news conference in Dubai, the prominent international nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch released its new World Report 2010 and summarized human rights conditions in several countries in the region including Iran:

“Iran’s post-election crackdown following the disputed presidential elections on June 12 has turned into a human rights disaster, Human Rights Watch said. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Basij militia, and police arbitrarily arrested thousands of peaceful protesters and dissidents, including students, women’s rights activists, lawyers, and prominent human rights defenders in a clear effort to intimidate critics and stifle dissent. Government officials confirmed that as of November at least 30 protesters had died as a result of attacks by Basij and anti-riot police or in detention. At least seven more died in clashes on December 27, the holy day of Ashura. The actual number of deaths caused by government-sponsored violence is believed to be much higher.

“The systematic and brutal targeting of demonstrators and government critics by security forces shows that the regime’s crackdown is nothing but an attempt to silence voices of dissent,” [HRW's deputy Middle East director Joe] Stork said. “Iran’s post-election unrest is now a full-blown human rights crisis.” …

Beginning in August, the Judiciary staged show trials of hundreds of prominent reformers and activists allegedly connected with “rioters” attempting to promote a “velvet revolution.” During these trials, many of these dissidents gave televised confessions that appeared coerced. These confessions implicated the detainees in vaguely worded security crimes described in lengthy indictments filed by Revolutionary Court prosecutors. Some of those put on trial received lengthy prison terms and several were sentenced to death.

“The Iranian Judiciary’s show trials of hundreds of demonstrators and dissidents ranks among the most absurd displays of prosecutorial abuse I have witnessed in recent memory,” Stork said…

[Link to full report]

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