Posts tagged: Ayatollah Khamenei

Groups join forces, urge Iran to free journalists (Source: Committee to Protect Journalists)

By , February 12, 2010 10:36 am

An international coalition of prominent human rights organizations have joined together in an effort to raise awareness about and help secure the releases of journalists and writers imprisoned in Iran, including Kian:

“February 11, 2010, New York—A coalition of leading international journalists’, writers’, and publishers’ organizations today launched a campaign to press the government of Iran to release their colleagues imprisoned in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential election CPJ, PEN, Reporters Sans Frontières, Index on Censorship, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association have joined forces for the campaign out of what the groups have called “a sense of shared, urgent concern for the welfare of journalists, writers, and bloggers and a profound alarm over the situation for free expression in Iran.”

The “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, named for a pledge the Ayatollah Khomenei made during the 1979 Iranian revolution to protect freedom of expression and the press, kicks off on the 31st anniversary of the revolution and four days before the UN Human Rights Council convenes in Geneva to review Iran’s human rights record. In an open letter released today, the coalition called on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to honor the original spirit of the Iranian revolution and order the release of at least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in Iran in apparent violation of their right to freedom of expression…

The list of writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in Iran includes some of Iran’s most distinguished journalists, some of the country’s leading bloggers, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar and social planner who was sentenced in August 2009 to 15 years in prison following a mass trial of 140 activists, intellectuals, and writers accused of fomenting a “velvet revolution.” Among the journalists are Emadeddin Baghi, also a well known author and human rights defender; Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an award-winning editor and press freedom advocate; and Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights journalist who has been jailed twice in the last eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists this month announced that the 47 journalists now in prison in Iran are more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996.

“Despite mass arrests, forced confessions, harassment and intimidation, journalists are still working,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Chairman Paul Steiger. “We must send these courageous men and women, and the nearly 50 journalists currently behind bars, a clear message of support. Iran is now the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. President Ahmadinejad should be ashamed of this fact and release our colleagues immediately.”

The coalition is not only addressing the government of Iran, but also urging world leaders to apply pressure on Iran to release all those who are in prison simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“Next week, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations meets to examine Iran’s human rights record,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN. “In its own submission to the Council, the government of Iran points out that its constitution protects basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, the freedom to assembly peacefully, and freedom from arbitrary arrests”

“And yet,” Fraser continued, “Despite these protections, the Human Rights council has before it more than 200 reports documenting the arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and torture, often for the purposes of extracting false confessions, of intellectuals, students, artists, human rights defenders, journalists, and others after the disputed presidential elections last year. We implore the members of the Council to question Iran carefully on its human rights performance, and especially on the fate of at least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in that country.”

“Arresting journalists and writers is wrong and counterproductive at the same time,” [journalist and former Evin prison detainee] Maziar Bahari said today. “It is illegal even according to Iranian laws, and the Iranian government is actually undermining its own authority by arresting journalists. In Iran, journalists have always reflected people’s frustration with the government. By denying people of a peaceful way to vent their anger the government of Iran is forcing people to act out their anger on the streets,” he concluded.

The “Our Society Will Be A Free Society” campaign is a joint initiative of The Committee to Protect Journalists, International PEN and PEN American Center and English PEN, Reporters Sans Frontières, Index on Censorship, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association. The campaign will run through March 20, 2010, the Iranian New Year, with events aimed at building pressure for the release of writers and journalists in prison in Iran continuing in North America and Europe through the spring.”

[Link to statement]

Iran Mobilizes to Stifle Opposition Protests (Source: Wall Street Journal)

By , February 11, 2010 1:44 pm

WSJ’s Farnaz Fassihi reported on the run-up to Iran’s February 11 anniversary demonstrations, including news of Kian’s appeal:

“BEIRUT—Iranian authorities deployed in force across Tehran Wednesday to conduct last-minute security sweeps and warn residents to refrain from joining antigovernment protests planned for Thursday.

The government typically orchestrates large, carnival-like rallies and demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. For this year’s events on Feb. 11, the day marking the culmination of the annual celebrations, opposition leaders have called for protesters to demonstrate against the regime. That has set the stage for clashes between authorities and demonstrators, who have taken to the streets repeatedly to protest the outcome of presidential elections in June.

Government officials, meanwhile, ratcheted up threats against any protests Thursday, vowing to confront demonstrators on the streets and calling for government supporters to turn out in large numbers. Iranian officials have branded protesters as agents of foreign powers.

The Iranian judiciary has handed down a number of harsh sentences against protesters arrested in previous demonstrations, including at least 10 pending death sentences.

On Wednesday, semi-official news services and opposition Web sites reported last-minute attempts by police and plain-clothes militia to suppress antigovernment demonstrations.

Basij militia took over a large bus and taxi station in western Tehran, shutting it down and draping a banner over the terminal stating the area will serve as headquarters for security forces.

Iranian Web sites said the bus terminal would also be used by security forces coming in from the provinces to help suppress protests in the capital.

The government typically buses in large numbers of government supporters from outlying regions to Tehran to participate in rallies.

Meanwhile, human-rights groups in Iran reported late Wednesday that 19 mothers whose children were killed in previous post-election unrest, had been detained by authorities.

Iran’s telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.’s email services, saying instead that a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out. It wasn’t clear late Wednesday what effect the order had on Google’s email services in Iran.Iranians have reported widespread service disruptions to Internet and text messaging services, though mobile phones appeared to be operating normally Wednesday.

Google didn’t have an immediate comment about the announcement.

Police have also confiscated satellite dishes from residential roof tops, according to opposition Web sites. Some pedestrians have been quoted on opposition Web sites saying that their mobile phones were searched and, in some cases, taken by police patrolling areas of the capital where protests have erupted in the past.

Iranian authorities tasked with upholding Islamic values have also been scouring the streets, harassing people wearing green, the trademark color of the opposition, according to witness accounts posted on opposition Web sites.

Basij forces, the mostly volunteer corps of progovernment militia, have distributed flyers to homes in many neighborhoods, saying that progovernment supporters “will confront the enemies of Islam” in any protests Thursday.

In south Tehran, Basij members came in a caravan of 15 motorbikes, according to several opposition sites, whose accounts corroborated with each other. They knocked on doors and handed out flyers, or threw them over the street-side walls of residential compounds, the reports said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s elite security force, has deployed its troops along routes planned for the opposition demonstrations on Thursday.

Local media have been warned to avoid provocative headlines and not to cover protests not sanctioned by the state. The few foreign reporters still accredited to work in Iran have been told they can only cover government celebrations, and are banned from interviewing opposition supporters or regular citizens.

Political dissidents and activists who were recently released from jail have been called in by the intelligence ministry in the past few days and warned not to take part in demonstrations on Thursday, according to a report by the Organization to Defend Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, a local human-rights group.

Opposition leaders don’t appear to be backing down. Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate, said Wednesday he will march peacefully from a neighborhood in west Tehran towards the capital’s Azadi Square Thursday morning.

Opposition Web sites reported that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, an opposition leader, held an emergency meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday night, complaining about the heavy-handed crackdowns ahead of Feb. 11 and calling for “the end of shameful actions” against protesters.

Despite the crackdown, authorities Wednesday appeared to also signal some flexibility. Iran’s Revolutionary Court on Wednesday reduced the prison sentence of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to five years in from 15, in an appellate hearing. Mr. Tajbakhsh was sentenced on charges of plotting against national security.

Alireza Beheshti, a top aide to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was released from prison Tuesday night in critical condition, after suffering a heart attack in Evin prison this week, according to opposition Web sites.”

[Link to article]

The spirit of protest lives on in Iran (Source: Guardian)

By , December 10, 2009 11:01 am
An article in The Guardian newspaper highlights the injustice of Kian’s case:
“This morning a fresh round of opposition demonstrations erupted across Iran and there have been widespread clashes reported between protesters and various state security forces, the police and the paramilitary Basij militia. The troubles are seemingly focused in the main on Tehran’s universities, as well as those in the provincial cities of Isfahan, Kermanshah, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz and Karaj. Troubles have also been reported elsewhere in Tehran. The protests are testimony both to the extent of grievances still widely held among a large section of the Iranian population and to the bravery of the Iranian people even in the face of state violence and repression…

Iran once enjoyed what was, for the region, a surprisingly open and sophisticated political pluralism and debate. There was even tolerance of criticism – albeit neither of the system of Islamic government à la Khomeini nor of the supreme leader.

However, during the last few months, rights have been severely curtailed. The granting of clemency by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei to 793 prisoners only highlights the number incarcerated by the regime. Trials of many opposition figures have violated Iranian constitutional and legal norms, and several, including the Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh, have been sentenced to long imprisonment on bogus espionage charges. Security forces continue to arrest and harass critical voices and have even targeted the Mourning Mothers, a group of women, including the mother of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose children were killed during post-election protests. Amnesty International reports plans to establish a “cyber police” unit to track down those “spreading lies” and “insults” that will further attack freedom of expression

It seems likely that state forces will successfully quash today’s demonstrations. However the recurrence of protests and the regime’s use of violence and oppression to suppress the uprisings highlights the ongoing political crisis in Iran and the fundamental lack of legitimacy of the ruling elite. The intolerance of criticism by the Iranian state will surely only further radicalise protesters…”

Tehran faces winter of discontent (Source: Irish Times)

By , November 10, 2009 3:46 am

Patrick Smyth of the Irish Times has written a piece about Iran’s current turmoil which features Kian:

“…Using the opportunity presented by official anti-US commemorations of the 1979 seizure of hostages in the US embassy, tens of thousands of demonstrators on Wednesday took to the streets of Tehran and other cities in the biggest show of strength in two months…

The regime is ultra-sensitive to criticism of the election: only a couple of weeks ago state television reported supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as warning that questioning the results of the election was “the biggest crime”. An estimated 100 opposition supporters remain in jail, many of them prominent figures who supported, or were believed to have supported, reformist candidates in the June 12th presidential elections.

Many faced mass trials reminiscent of the Moscow show trials of the 1930s, complete with public confessions, some clearly given under duress.

One of those most severely dealt with is the US-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, a mild-mannered researcher on urban planning who was not involved in the street protests, and whose cause was taken up in this paper in August by his friends Chandana Mathur, an anthropologist in NUI Maynooth, and her husband Dermot Dix, headmaster of Headfort School in Kells.

On October 20th, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Tajbakhsh to 12-15 years in prison on charges of espionage, co-operation with an enemy government, acting against national security by participating in Gulf 2000 (an internet forum housed at Columbia University), and for once working for the Open Society Institute financed by George Soros.

In reality, it appears, Tajbakhsh’s real offence is holding a US passport. He has been held in the notorious Evin prison for four months, much of it in solitary confinement.

Tajbakhsh had previously been targeted by the Iranian government. Between May and October 2007, he was held in solitary confinement in Evin prison on similar charges. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has launched a letter-writing campaign calling for his release … and President Obama and the EU have appealed to the Iranian authorities for clemency.

The government is also under huge economic pressure, wrestling in parliament with a reform package that may inflame the public by cutting subsidies on food, fuel and electricity…”

[Full Article]

Jailed Iranian-American Is Said to Be in Solitary Confinement (Source: New York Times)

By , October 29, 2009 2:58 pm

The New York Times‘ Nazila Fathi spoke with family members for an update on Kian’s current situation:

“An Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, who has been jailed in Iran since July and was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison, has been transferred back into solitary confinement, a family member said Wednesday.

He has been in the infamous Evin prison for months but, he told his wife, was moved early this month from solitary confinement to a “villa” on the prison grounds, living with four other high-profile inmates, according to the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating the case.

A few days ago Mr. Tajbakhsh was returned to solitary confinement, where prisoners often are forced to sleep on the floor.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested after protests broke out following the disputed June 12 presidential election.

The report of Mr. Tajbakhsh’s transfer came as the government appeared to continue its attempts to forestall protests scheduled for next Wednesday, the anniversary of the American Embassy takeover in Tehran. After arrests in the summer that stopped most large demonstrations, the opposition has been using occasions that the government supports to stage periodic rallies.

On Wednesday, state television reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, said questioning the results of the election was “the biggest crime.” It is unclear if that was anything more than a rhetorical flourish, but the timing suggests that it was a warning to protesters to stand down.

Last week, the wives and family members of a number of high-profile political detainees were arrested at a religious ceremony in Tehran, and 19 of them continue to be held, reformist Web sites have reported.

Mr. Tajbakhsh is one of more than 100 people being detained on election-related charges.

According to his family member, he told his wife that he was taken to solitary confinement on Sunday to do “some work.” In the past, prisoners have been kept in difficult conditions and asked to write confessions or to implicate fellow prisoners…”

[Full article]

The New Hostage Crisis (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 24, 2009 9:44 am

In a cover story for Foreign Policy magazine, Kian’s friend Karim Sadjadpour considers Kian’s detention and sentencing and questions “why Iran’s rulers imprison people they know are innocent”:

“My friend, the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, was recently sentenced to 15 years in Tehran’s Evin prison. For those familiar with the ways of authoritarian regimes, the charges against him will ring familiar: espionage, cooperating with an enemy government, and endangering national security.

Since his arrest last July — he was accused of helping to plan the post-election uprisings — Kian’s family and friends have made countless appeals for clemency to the Iranian government, written letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pleading his innocence, and signed dozens of petitions. All to no avail.

I’ve come now to realize that the regime probably thinks we’re obtuse. Indeed, they know better than anyone that Kian is an innocent man. As the expression goes in Persian, “da’va sar-e een neest,” i.e. that’s not what this fight is about.

Allow me to explain.

Kian was first arrested in 2007. His crime was having previously worked as a consultant for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a U.S.-based NGO. Though his work was nonpolitical, focused on educational and developmental projects, and had received the explicit consent of the Iranian government, he was accused of trying to foment a “velvet revolution” on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies.

While in solitary confinement in Evin, he was subjected to countless hours of interrogation. Had the authorities found any evidence for the above charges during all this, Kian certainly would not have been freed after four months.

He was permitted to leave the country after his release, but chose to remain in Tehran with his wife and newborn daughter. He reassured his worried family and friends that he was now an open book to the Iranian government and there could be no further rationale or pretext to detain him.

Over the last two years, he regularly met with his minder from the Ministry of Intelligence. Aware of the fact that the government was monitoring all of his activities and communications — including e-mail and telephone conversations — he kept a very low profile and exhibited great caution.

During this period, Kian and I regularly exchanged e-mails. He urged me to read his favorite book, Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz’s brilliant novel, The Captive Mind, which examines the moral and intellectual conflicts faced by men and women living under totalitarianism of the left or right.

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the shah we debated the successes and failures of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and he told me he believed that the former outweigh the latter. Hardly the worldview of a subversive counterrevolutionary.

Even amid the massive popular uprisings following the tainted June 2009 presidential elections, Kian remained cautious and unmoved, steering way clear of any political activity and continuing to meet with his minder.

On June 14, two days after the election, he wrote me an email saying, “I’m keeping my head down … I have nothing to add to all the reports that are here.” In the same e-mail, Kian even expressed skepticism about the opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud, saying he had seen “little hard evidence.”

A few weeks later he was arrested, bafflingly, on charges of helping to plan the post-election unrest.

Given the government’s intimate familiarity with the benign nature of Kian’s activities and communications, it appeared he was simply needed as an unfortunate pawn in the regime’s campaign to portray indigenous popular protests as orchestrated by foreign powers. Though the unrest gradually subsided, we went from counting Kian’s detention in days to weeks to months.

Along with dozens of other prisoners, dressed in pajamas and sandals, he was forced to participate in humiliating show-trials that were broadcast on official state television. Hard-liners used Kian to attack their reformist opponents, inventing fantastic claims that he was the link between former President Mohammed Khatami and OSI founder George Soros.

Though his face looked visibly different, haggard, his two-year old daughter Hasti ran and kissed the television screen when she saw his image. His wife sobbed.

When our courageous mutual friend, Canadian-Iranian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, was finally released from Evin after four months, we thought it boded well for Kian. These hopes were dashed by Tuesday’s almost comically harsh sentence. 15 years!

The over-the-top severity of the sentence makes it eminently clear that this case really has little to do with Kian, and everything to do with Iran’s negotiating posture toward the United States. A disaffected contact in the Iranian foreign ministry — the vast majority of whom were thought to have voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi — bluntly confirmed my suspicions. “Eena daran bazi mikonan,” he told me. “These guys are just playing.”

While neighboring Dubai and Turkey have managed to build thriving economies by trading in goods and services, Iran, even 30 years after the revolution, remains in the business of trading in human beings. In addition to Kian, Iran is now holding at least five other American citizens against their will, including three young hikers — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal (an outspoken Palestinian-rights activist) — detained in June along the Iran-Iraq border in Kurdistan.

What, if anything, Tehran seeks in return for these human subjects is unclear, and frankly it’s a difficult issue for Iran to broach, given that it undermines the accusations the regime has concocted. That said, the official line can often change abruptly, and for no apparent reason. After Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced last year to eight years in prison (on preposterous charges of espionage), she was summarily released a few weeks later.

Until recently, it was accepted wisdom that the uptick in Tehran’s repression of its own citizenry and detention of U.S. nationals was merely a reaction to the hostile policies of the Bush administration. This thesis is being quickly disproven as the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to human rights in Iran proves equally unsuccessful in getting the regime to improve its practices.

Whether Republic or Democrat, U.S. officials are often puzzled by the detention of dual nationals, and unsure how to react to them. Do U.S. statements and/or diplomatic efforts help or hurt the cause of the detainees?

Based on the experience of several Iranian-Americans who have served time in Evin — including esteemed scholar Haleh Esfandiari, Saberi, and peace activist Ali Shakeri — we know that thoughtful public statements from U.S. officials coupled with behind-the scenes intervention were helpful to their cause.

But these are individual cases. What U.S. policy measures could help improve the overall human rights situation in Iran, and prevent further detentions from taking place in the future?

Broadly speaking, I support the argument — made mostly by the American left — that expanding and improving ties between Washington and Tehran would help mitigate the detention of innocents in Iran — whether Iranian or American.

I also agree with the counterargument, made mostly by the right, that Tehran’s hard-liners use continued enmity with the United States in order to blame Washington when, among other things, their population rises up, economic malaise worsens, or a terrorist attack happens in Baluchistan.

Unfortunately, the difficulty of potential engagement has increased significantly in recent months as any remaining moderates and pragmatists have essentially been purged from the Iranian government’s power structure. The color spectrum of the regime now ranges from pitch black to dark grey. And insofar as the continued detention of U.S. citizens in Tehran decreases the likelihood of a diplomatic breakthrough with Washington, the interests of at least some of these hard-liners will be served.

Sadly, languishing in Evin prison, my friend Kian understands this dynamic only too well.

Shortly after President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June, Kian wrote, “Iranians might ponder Barack Obama’s challenge to Iran to articulate ‘not what it is against, but what future it wants to build.’ Each Iranian will wonder how much thought our rulers or our fellow countrymen have given to this critical question and why answers to it are so vague and so few.”

[Full article]

Detente on ice (Source: Washington Post)

By , October 22, 2009 9:42 am

The editors of The Washington Post are calling on President Obama to “speak up” about Kian’s case and others like it:

“Does an Iran that sentences an innocent American scholar to prison really want ‘engagement’?

THERE WERE hints of progress in the nuclear talks with Iran on Wednesday as Iranian negotiators in Vienna accepted for consideration a plan under which Iran would ship most of its current stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. But there also was a contrary signal from Tehran about the desire of its extremist regime for detente with the West. That was the reported sentencing of Iranian American academic Kian Tajbakhsh to 15 years in prison on a blatantly bogus charge of espionage.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, a well-known expert on urban planning, had no role in the protests that erupted after Iran’s fraudulent presidential election in June. He told friends that he was “keeping his head down.” In fact he was preparing to begin a teaching appointment at Columbia University this fall. But Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was educated in Britain and the United States but has lived in Iran since 1999, was a convenient pawn for the regime’s hard-liners. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are trying to prove that the vast opposition movement against them is the product of a conspiracy by Western intelligence agencies and nongovernmental organizations such as the Open Society Institute, for which Mr. Tajbakhsh once worked as an adviser.

The arrest and trial of Mr. Tajbakhsh and more than 140 other people, including a number of opposition leaders, constitute a key element in the coup that the regime’s hard-liners have staged against more moderate elements — including those who genuinely favor rapprochement with the West. The tactical concessions that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government is hinting at in Vienna complement the crackdown: By striking deals with Western leaders, the ruling clique seeks to legitimize itself at home. If it wins the domestic power struggle, there is no chance that it will retreat from its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons or to gain influence over the Middle East through terrorism and militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

The Obama administration and other Western governments say that they are cognizant of the danger of strengthening Mr. Ahmadinejad and his superior, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But they have been cautious about following the advice of Iranians such as Nobel Peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who is urging the administration to talk as much about the treatment of people such as Mr. Tajbakhsh as it does about Iran’s nuclear program. To be sure, White House and State Department spokesmen protested Mr. Tajbakhsh’s sentence; the White House statement said that he “embodies what is possible between our two countries.” We hope that President Obama himself will see fit to speak up about Mr. Tajbakhsh’s case and others like it. The fact that Tehran is imprisoning the very people capable of building bridges between Iran and the United States is a clear message to the president about how the regime regards his “engagement” policy.”

[Link to editorial]

Iran’s Khamenei signals easing in election tension (Source: Associated Press)

By , September 21, 2009 3:48 am

In a public speech, Iran’s Supreme Leader has questioned the validity of much of the ‘evidence’ presented at the Revolutionary Court show trials:

“Iran’s Supreme Leader warned government supporters on Sunday against accusing opposition members of wrongdoing without proof, an indication that the Islamic government may be easing up on critics of the June presidential election.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, said while a suspect’s own confession was admissible, his testimony or accusations could not be used to implicate others in the unrest following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
“We do not have the right to accuse without any proof,” Khamenei said in a speech marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in which he urged the judiciary and security forces to pursue offenders within the bounds of the law. The speech was carried live on Iran’s state radio and television.
“What a suspect says in court against a third party has no legitimate validity,” Khamenei said…
Khamenei’s latest comments could signal a change in the direction of the ongoing court cases against protesters.
Over the past months, state-owned television, news agencies and newspapers reported on five court sessions in which some detainees blamed opposition figures and their supporters of fomenting the postelection unrest…”

[Full article]

A Test for Iran (Source: Washington Post)

By , September 16, 2009 3:50 pm

An op-ed published by the editors of The Washington Post today calls on the United States to demand that Iran release Kian, Maziar Bahari and other Western citizens within the context of official US-Iran engagement:

“THE OBAMA administration has chosen to support international negotiations with Iran next month in spite of Tehran’s declarations that it will not discuss its nuclear program. The White House says the United States and its five partners will insist on raising the U.N. Security Council’s demand for a suspension of Iranian uranium enrichment. Yet if engagement with Iran is to have any hope of success, at least one other item should be on the agenda: the government’s recent repression of domestic opposition, and in particular its prosecution of Western citizens.

Since August the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been staging show trials of some 140 politicians, civil society activists and journalists accused of trying to carry out a Western-orchestrated “color revolution” in Iran. The crudely staged cases are the latest phase in a coup by extremists, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against more moderate factions that represent the majority of the country — and that include the proponents of a genuine rapprochement between Iran and the West. By opening talks with the Ahmadinejad clique, the international alliance risks strengthening the extremists’ hand in a fateful power struggle. If they win, the negotiations are doomed.

One way to avoid this pitfall is for the United States to insist on discussing the human rights issues raised by the show trials. The obvious lack of due process for leading regime opponents contravenes international human rights standards that Iran claims to respect. The cases of torture and rape of prisoners courageously documented by opposition presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi should be as worthy of discussion as the non-nuclear subjects that Iran wants to bring up.

The United States and several other countries also have a direct interest in the cases of people with dual citizenship and embassy employees who have been swept up in the purge. These journalists, scholars and functionaries were not part of the opposition movement, but the regime is using them to bolster its claims that all of the opposition is part of a foreign conspiracy. Two cases that stand out are those of Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American scholar, and Maziar Bahari, a Canadian American filmmaker and accredited correspondent in Iran for Newsweek magazine, which is published by The Washington Post Co.

Mr. Bahari was arrested at his mother’s home on June 21; Mr. Tajbakhsh was picked up July 9. Both have been denied access to consular officials or their own lawyers. At a ghastly “press conference” after his appearance at his trial Aug. 1, Mr. Bahari delivered statements echoing the regime’s propaganda about Western plots and the supposed role of journalists in them. Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was due to begin teaching at Columbia University this month, played no role in the opposition protests yet has been charged with being one of their planners.

There is an easy way for the Obama administration to test Iran’s seriousness about negotiations: It should demand that Mr. Bahari, Mr. Tajbakhsh, and other Western citizens being cruelly used as pawns in the regime’s domestic repression be immediately released and allowed to leave the country. Whether or not Mr. Ahmadinejad makes that simple concession will reveal whether the regime has any intention of mending relations with the United States.”

[Link to editorial]

Khamenei Issues Warning to Iranian Opposition (Source: New York Times)

By , September 12, 2009 4:20 pm

Nazila Fathi of The New York Times, reporting on the Friday prayers speech delivered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at Tehran University, noted that:

“…Mr. Khamenei’s speech is a final warning to political leaders,” said one analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “He told the reformers, who claim they are loyal to the values of Khomeini, that he is also following him and would confront them in the same way that Khomeini confronted his opponents.”

Mr. Khamenei and his supporters have tried to portray the opposition and the protests as a plot by foreign enemies to stage a “velvet revolution” against the regime. More than a hundred former officials, activists and journalists are still in detention. Among them is an Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, and an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karroubi lashed out at the raid on his office and the arrest of his aides in a letter to the head of the judiciary late Thursday and said he would not be intimidated, his Web site Etemad Melli reported. “I am even more persistent than before now after the arrests and the intimidations,” he said, referring to his efforts to publicize charges of torture and rape…

Ayatollah Khamenei also stressed that Iran was not going to compromise over its nuclear program, adding the regime would not show weakness or retreat from what is considers its rights…”

[Full article]

Panorama Theme by Themocracy