Friday, June 26, 2009

Crackdown In Iran

As most know out there, Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi claimed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad committed fraud on the June 12th election of a president. Immediately following the elections, mass demonstrations broke out in Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cracked down hard on the demonstrators, and very shortly after Ahmadinejad declared victory, the nation’s top cleric called the election valid—that is, proclaiming his “blessing” without any attempt to initiate investigation. After a live televised report by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in support of the current president, the typical chanting of "death to America" and "death to Israel" …occurred amongst partakers present... It's rather pathetic-- the finger pointing by Ahmadinejad at the US, Britain, and Israel as instigating these protests--that's one lame propaganda bluff. Such diversionary arrows are simply returning to him like a boomerang. Simply consider the quick actions taken to suppress Iranian citizens from using the Internet, and the violence directed towards those partaking in peaceful demonstrations when the election results purportedly came in. Currently, Iranian authorities are barring international journalists from reporting on the streets. Actions truly speak louder than words at times, and I dare, this is one of those times. Article directly below:

*Also see: Iranian cleric says "rioters" should be executed


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vows not to waver over protests

From Times Online

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today vowed he would not waver in response to protests over the disputed presidential election.

Claims of vote-rigging in the June 12 poll have provoked the biggest street demonstrations since the 1979 Islamic revolution and been answered by a bloody crackdown in which at least 18 people have died and more than 1,000 arrested.

“I had insisted and will insist on implementing the law on the election issue... Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, effectively closing the door on compromise with the reformists.

Iran also stepped up its rhetoric against Western governments, whom Iran accuses of orchestrating the protests. This morning, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said that Tehran was considering whether to downgrade diplomatic ties with Britain.

Two British diplomats were expelled on Monday, accused of spying, prompting Gordon Brown to order tit-for-tat expulsions of two Iranian diplomats.

Mr Brown's spokesman said that Downing St was carefully considering Iran's latest move, and hoped to preserve a constructive relationship. “Iran’s decision to try to turn what are clearly internal matters for Iran into a conflict with the UK and others is deeply regrettable and without foundation."

It was reported today that one of Iran's most hard-line prosecutors has been appointed to lead the judicial crackdown on reformists. Human Rights Watch says that Saeed Mortazavi, the prosecutor-general of Tehran, has been put in charge of bringing dissidents' cases through a special court.

The New York-based campaign group says that Mr Mortazavi's credentials include personally interrogating Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in custody in June 2003. Her family's lawyers say that her body showed signs of torture, including blows to the head.

The government of Canada continues to claim that not only did Mr Mortazavi order Kazemi's arrest, but supervised her torture and was present when she was killed. The Iranian Parliament has accused him of orchestrating a cover-up.

In 2000 while still a judge Mr Mortazavi reportedly ordered the closure of more than 100 newspapers and journals suspected of voicing dissent, and in 2004 he is said to have ordered the detention of more than 20 bloggers and journalists, who were allegedly held in solitary confinement in secret locations and coerced to sign false statements and make televised confessions.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, said: "Iran is in the midst of a violent and arbitrary crackdown on reformist protesters that has already claimed lives and led to over a thousand arrests.

"The role of Mortazavi in the crackdown suggests that the authorities are preparing to bring trumped up charges against its opponents."

Iranian officials have promised punitive sentences against those arrested during the wave of protests against the allegedly rigged June 12 presidential election that returned President Ahmadinejad to power.

More than 1,000 people are believed to have been held - some of them protesters arrested on the streets, some university students held in midnight raids, while others are prominent journalists and politicians who have been rounded up at their homes and offices. Many are reportedly being held without charge in Evin prison outside Tehran, without access to lawyers or relatives.

“Elements of riots must be dealt with to set an example. The judiciary will do that,” Ebrahim Raisi, a top judicial official, said.

Mr Mortazavi has been linked with the crackdown on opposition leader and defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, reportedly ordering the arrest of 25 staff at his newspaper on Monday. Mr Mousavi has also been the subject of vitriolic attacks from the hardline press.

Zahra Rahnavard, Mr Mousavi's redoubtable wife, demanded the immediate release of detainees and said it was her patriotic and religious duty to continue fighting injustice.

“I regret that a large number of people among the political elite and others have been arrested, and I ask for their release,” Zahra Rahnavard said in remarks published today on her husband’s campaign website.

“I have not been arrested. I continue my work at the university but, at the same time alongside others, I protest.

“Nationalism and the blood of the martyrs demand that I be on the scene, always protesting against the result of the election and defending people’s rights within the framework of the law."

The crackdown was authorised by Ayatollah Khamenei in his sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran university last week, when he warned that opposition leaders “will be held accountable for all the violence, bloodshed and rioting" if they did not halt the rallies.

The authorities have flooded the streets with armed police and militiamen, stepped up raids on universities suspected of being hotbeds of dissent and arrested known dissidents.

On Saturday more than 450 protesters were arrested and at least 10 of them killed, including 26-year-old Neda Salehi Agha Soltan, who was shot as she stood in the street. A near news blackout has been imposed on the deaths and public funerals appear to have been banned in an attempt to prevent them becoming martyrs.

Penitent protesters have been paraded on television, saying that they were incited to riot by the BBC.

The crackdown is now being extended and tightened. Newspapers in Tehran reported yesterday that at least four members of the country's football team have been told they will never play for the national squad again, after daring to wear green armbands signalling support for the protests during last week's World Cup qualifying match against South Korea. According to one report their passports have been confiscated.

The Iranian Football Federation could not immediately be contacted for confirmation of the reprisals against Ali Karimi, Mehdi Mahdavikia and Fahid Hashemian - top players whose names and reputations rival those of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard within Iran.

Meanwhile a chink appeared in the reformists' defiance when Mohsen Rezai, one of the three defeated presidential candidates, withdrew complaints of vote rigging, saying that he was acting in the national interest.

In a letter written to the Guardians Council, Mr Rezai - a former head of the Revolutionary Guard - said that the country’s political, social and security situation had entered such a critical phase that loyalty was more important than the election.

“I feel it is my duty... taking into account my pledge as a soldier of the revolution, the leader and the people, to inform you that I renounce following up on my complaints," he wrote.

Although the Guardians Council has yet to issue a final ruling on the election, Ayatollah Khamenei has already endorsed the results, and blamed foreign powers particularly "treacherous" Britain - for trying to undermine them. “Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory. It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it.”

Tehran has repeatedly accused London of meddling in the post-election unrest, claiming that spies had been flooding into the country for the last two years. Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, repeated the allegations this morning when he told the Fars news agency that some people with British passports “had a role in the riots".

Analysts say that Iran appears to be treading a fine diplomatic line by focusing its anger on Britain, last known to have interfered directly in Iranian politics in the 1950s, rather than on America, where President Obama has been offering a fresh start in diplomatic relations.