The life and [troubled]times of the Islamic Republic...
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International reaction to the Mykonos verdict on April 10 has been widelyreported, so we will only summarize it here.
¥ All EU countries except Greece recalled their ambassadors from Tehran
¥ Germany expelled four Islamic Republic diplomats (Tehran respondedin kind), and announced it was calling off its "critical dialogue"with Tehran.
¥ Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also recalled its ambassadors (Tehranannounced it would halt all purchases from New Zealand... although theNew Zealand government discovered none existed) [International Iran Times4/18]
¥ The U.S. called for a tougher EU policy toward Iran.
¥ Germany's state prosecutor has opened a new file on Foreign MinisterVelayati that could eventually lead to a court-issued international arrestwarrant against him.
¥ EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to meet on April 29 to decide onfurther actions.
¥ In contrast to most reactions in Germany, former Economics ministerJuergen Moellemann, a Free Democrat, has called for a strengthening ofthe dialogue with Iran, saying that a Berlin judge could not decide policytowards other states.
¥ Austria is contemplating reopening the investigation into the murderof Sharafkindi's predecessor as KDPI Secretary General, Abdulrahman Qassemlou,who was killed by Iranian government agents in July 1989 in Vienna. Followinga statement by FDI Executive Director Kenneth Timmerman on Austrian radioon April 11, the opposition Liberal Forum demanded that a special parliamentarycommittee investigate the 1989 killings. [AP 4/13]
¥ Frances D'Souza, the chair of the International Rushdie defense committeesand the executive director of the human rights group Article 19, wroteto the Europe's Council of Ministers urging them to contemplate Europe-widesanctions against Tehran. "The only way in order to make it quiteclear to Iran that you mean business and that you will not tolerate terrorismanymore is by discussing sanctions," she said. [Reuters 4/11]
Shoreh Baddii, the widow of one of the Kurdish victims of the Mykonoskillings, praised the German court for highlighting the role of the IslamicRepublic political leadership in ordering the killings, and said that exiledIranians would now feel safer in Germany. She called the verdict "agreat victory for German justice....This victory is not only a victoryfor us, but a victory for all democratically-minded people in this country."[AFP 4/10]
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i,has called the Mykonos trial a "U.S. puppet show, co-starring theZionist propaganda machine and intelligence service," the state-runTehran press reports.
"Germany has left behind a very bitter experience and it shouldpay the price of its mistake. Germany has lost something it cannot regaineasily, and that is the Iranian nation and government's trust in Germany'ssincerity,'' Khamene'i said.
The Berlin court's action was "a mockery of justice" and had"no value in the eyes of the Islamic Republic," the Leader toldmilitary commanders on the eve of Army Day, which is April 18.
The reaction of certain European countries to the Mykonos affair was"very bad," Ayatollah Khamene'i said. "The Foreign Ministryhas been instructed to carefully register the behavior of those governmentsin this meaningless show, so that it can be recorded in the history ofthe Iranian people.'' [Iran News 4/17]
In a separate statement, contained in an official three-page letterfrom Foreign Minister Velayati distributed to foreign ambassadors in Tehranon April 17, he called the Mykonos verdict "unfair, ex-parte, biasedand illegal... The abnormal and unjudicial behavior of the court rendersthe ruling null and void. It is only a political tool to be exploited todistort Iran's image." [Iran News 4/17]
The Iranian Majlis held a special closed session on April 13 to reviewIranÕs relations with the European Union. Hassan Rouhani, the deputy speakerof the Majlis, said the government had canceled a planned visit by an Australianeconomic delegation. In a speech broadcast by Iranian television, Rouhanithreatened that "without doubt, it [EUÕs actions against Iran] willbe replied in kind by Iran." [AP 4/13]
He urged the government to "press the Germans for compensation"for huge contracts placed with German companies by the Shah and canceledby Khomeini, including a 300 million DM contract to purchase German submarines,and the 18 billion DM contract with Siemens for the Bushehr nuclear powerplant. He also called for the cancellation of Iranian investment in easternGermany. He did not mention the billions of DM Iran owes to German financialinstitutions. [Iran Press Service, 4/13]
In Lebanon, former Hezbollah secretary general Sobhi Toufaili has calledon the Lebanese government to expel the German ambassador to Lebanon, toprotest the Mykonos court decision. He said that Lebanon should retaliatesimilarly to all countries who took action against Tehran in response tothe Mykonos verdict. [UPI 4/13]
FDI has received reports from sources in Tehran that three - and possiblyten - Baha'is have been executed in recent weeks. We will provide additionalinformation as it becomes available.
Four Baha'is were known to have been sentenced to death in 1996 forapostasy (see FDI Newswire #24). In late February, the head of the IslamicRevolutionary Courts, Gholam Hoseyn Rahbarpour, said that of them had beenconvicted not of apostasy but of spying for Israel. He named them as MusaTalebi and Zabihollah Mahrami, but did not make clear whether they hadactually been executed. [See FDI Newswire #37]
The Islamic Republic has outlawed the Baha'i sect and declared thatanyone professing the Baha'i faith is an Israeli spy.
Iranian war veterans claiming to be victims of Iraqi poison gas attacksduring the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) held a protest march from FerdowsiSquare to the German embassy on April 16, Iran News reported from Tehran.The veterans, some of them in wheelchairs, have been encouraged to filecomplaints with the Justice Department against German firms that suppliedIraq with poison gas components and technology in the 1980s. [Iran News4/17]
On Friday, Deputy Majlis speaker Hassan Rohani asked the veterans tocall off their sit-in in front of the German embassy, which had been inprogress since Wednesday, asking them to leave the case up to the Majlis.[IRNA 4/18]
The head of the Judiciary branch, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, said inTehran on Friday that the Islamic Republic was preparing to sue the Germancompanies, and warned that the Islamic Republic "has the names ofall the German officials who were personally involved in issuing exportlicenses for those chemicals to Iraq." [IRNA 4/18]
The head of the Center for Victims of Chemical Warfare at the Bonyad-eMostazafan va Janbazan, Hamid Sohrab-pour, said that 118 Iranian veteranshave died since 1991 from illnesses resulting from CW attacks during thewar. The Center estimates some 100,000 persons were victims of poison gasattacks. Sohrab-pour said that 1,500 of them are still receiving constantmedication. [IRNA 4/17]
The deputy head of the Bonyad-e Mostazafan, Dr. Farzad Panahi, saidthe Islamic Republic had spent "tens of millions of dollars"to clean up toxic waste after Iraqi gas attacks and to send some 500 seriously-woundedvictims to foreign countries for special treatment. [IRNA 4/18]
Iran has executed 13 people who were convicted of drug smuggling andkilling several police agents during clashes.
The men were executed in seven cities in the southeastern province ofSistan-Balouchistan, which lies on the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, which announced the executions,provided no further details as to where they were carried out or the namesof those executed. It noted, however, that government law enforcement agentshad seized 1,540 pounds of opium on Sunday during an "armed encounter"with "smugglers" in Sistan va Balouchistan province. [IRNA 4/13]
More than 1,000 people have been executed under tough new drug enforcementlaws took effect in 1989.
FDI believes that the total lack of information provided by the governmenton these executions, however, raises strong suspicions that the regimemay be using the drug laws as a vehicle for executing political opponents.
As we reported in last week's Newswire, the KDPI has claimed that 60Iranian Kurdish dissidents have been poisoned using thallium in northernIraq.
Now an Iraqi Health Ministry undersecretary, Shawky Marcus, has confirmedthat not 60 but 85 Iranian Kurds were being treated in Baghdad hospitalsfor poisoning. He accused the Iranian regime of having contaminated theirfood with thallium. [Reuter, 4/13]
Houshang Golshiri, chairman of the banned Iranian Writers' Association,has been permitted to leave Iran for Europe, according to the FrankfurterRundschau. The paper said he was now in Amsterdam and plans to travel toGermany, where he has been awarded a four-month grant from the Boell Foundation,which is close to the Greens. Golshiri had to wait nearly six months foran opportunity to leave the country. In a letter of thanks to the SwedishPen Club, Golshiri demanded on behalf of his colleagues "the completeprinting of all works of all writers, without any ifs and buts of censorship."
The case of his imprisoned colleague Faraj Sarkuhi has recently drawnattention to the escalating persecution of writers and intellectuals, whoare trying to find positions independent of the regime in Iran. [Frankfurt/MainFrankfurter Rundschau in German, 4/5]
The editor of the daily Tus was convicted on April 6 of violating thepress law and has been barred from practicing journalism for ten years,because of a dispute with the Mashad Religious school.
The press court in Mashad found Mohammad Sadegh Javadi-Hessar guiltyof spreading "false information" and determined that "thecontinuation of his activities will be detrimental to national unity,"citing a February 1997 article in which he quipped that the country's publicuniversities were more Islamic than its seminaries.
Already in 1995, Javadi-Hessar was jailed briefly for articles that"insulted" officials, and his paper has been suspended on occasionsince that time. [IRNA 4/8]
The United Nations Human rights Commission voted on April 15 26-7 tocondemn the Islamic Republic for its record of killing Iranian dissidentsoverseas. 19 members of the commission abstained.
The resolution, introduced by the Netherlands on behalf of the EuropeanUnion, also demanded that Tehran "provide satisfactory written assurancesthat it does not support or incite threats to the life of Mr. Rushdie,"and deplored the increase in the bounty offered to Rushdie's killers bythe 15th Khordad Foundation.
The resolution also cited "torture and cruel, inhuman or degradingtreatment or punishment, including amputation and public executions."Tehran's ambassador to the conference, Bozorg-mehr Ziaran, said the resolutionwas based on "misinformation." [International Iran Times, 4/18]
Tehran has received praise for its treatment of human rights issuesfrom an unusual source: the Communist government of the People's Republicof China. During a trip to Beijing this week, Deputy Foreign Minister AllaedinBoroujerdi was reportedly told by the head of the Foreign Commission ofthe Chinese National Congress that "the proximity of views of Iranand China on international issues, especially human rights, is beneficialfor both countries." [Iran News 4/16]
31,000 polling stations have been designated across Iran, deputy interiorminister Alireza Tabesh said last week. The campaign officially beginson May 10, after the Council of Guardians rules on the eligibility of the12 candidates, who are required to officially register on April 24. Thefirst round of elections is scheduled for May 23. [IRNA 4/11]
Mostafa Mirsalim, Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance, has bannedIran's social, artistic, literary, cultural, sports, and labor societies,as well as Islamic associations, from any involvement in political issues.His cabinet decree was seen in the Tehran press as a setback for presidentialcandidate Khatami, who has been vigorously courting non-governmental andcultural groups with pledges of cultural and political openness.
Mirsalim specifically banned social groups which must obtain permitsfrom the government from supporting electoral candidates and any campaignactivities. "If such groups embark on political activities the resultswill be crude and will create disruption and division among their constituentmembers."
Referring to the point that recently some presidential candidates haveresorted to artistic groups, such as calligraphers and film directors inefforts to win popular support, he said: "This move is a new deviationwhich, during this round of presidential elections might become worse unlessthe vigilance of the members of social groups as well as the country'sadministrator prevents it." [Akbar 4/6]
One group (and one candidate) appeared unaffected by the ban. On thesame day as Mirsalim's decree, the conservative Jameh-e Rouhaniat-e Mobarez(Military Clerics Society) released a statement from its branches in Shirazand Kerman, announcing their support for the presidential candidacy ofMajlis Speaker 'Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, the regime's hand-picked candidateto succeed Mr. Rafsanjani. [Tehran Times, 4/6]
The state-controlled media has been giving extensive coverage Nateq-Nouri'sdoings as of late, treating his every utterance and ribbon-cutting ceremonyas a state occasion.
For the first time in Iranian history, a woman has declared her candidacyfor the highest elected office in the land. On April 15, Ms. Azam Taleghani,daughter of the late Ayatollah Mohammad Taleghani and a well-known politicalactivist, declared she sought approval from the Council of Guardians torun for president. Ms. Taleghani heads the Society of Islamic Women, andis editor in chief of a magazine called Payam-e Hajar. [Hamshahri 4/15]
The evening of her announcement, the BBC's Persian service asked Ms.Taleghani whether she felt her candidacy would be approved. "Article110 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not say thatonly men can be candidates for President," she said. "I am waitingto see what will be the reaction of the Council of Guardians." [BBCPersian Service 4/15]
In a gesture lost on no one, Majlis speaker Nateq-Nouri headed for Moscowon April 10, the day of the Mykonos verdict, and won a strong endorsementfrom Russian President "We have good, positive cooperation with Iran,which shows a tendency to grow," Yeltsin said. Yeltsin was secondedby Gennadi Seleznyov, speaker of the Russian Duma and a Communist Partymember, who called the Islamic Republic leadership "far-sighted."He added: "Iran like Russia does not see the need for NATO enlargement,is opposed to a unipolar world subordinate to U.S. interests."
Presidential hopeful Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri gushed that "relationsbetween Russia and Iran are becoming so close for the first time in thepast 100 years." [Moscow Interfax, April 10]
Appearing in "Fox News Sunday" last week, House Speaker NewGingrich said that the United States should "consider very seriously"military action against "certain very high-value targets in Iran"if there is strong evidence linking a senior Iranian government officialto a group of Shiite Muslims suspected of bombing a U.S. military compoundin Saudi Arabia last year. "We have to take whatever steps are necessaryto convince Iran that state-sponsored terrorism is not acceptable,"he said. The indirect killing of Americans is still an act of war."[Fox News 4/13]
Gingrich was responding to new allegations that an senior IRGC officer,Brigadier Ahmad Sharifi, had met two years before the Khobar Towers bombingwith a Saudi Shiite arrested on March 18 in Canada, and may have coordinatedthe attack. Intelligence sources quoted by the Washington Post noted that"the evidence of Iranian links to the Saudi Shiites suspected in theKhobar bombing includes bank checks signed by Sharifi." [WP 4/13]
Apparently in a ruse to deflect attention from the Mykonos verdict,Islamic Republic diplomats in Uruguay are claiming that they have beenvictims of a terrorist attack at the hands of Israeli intelligence agents."It was a Zionist attack," Tehran's ambassador Mohammad Ali Sarmadiclaimed.
But the Uruguayan police doubts any attack ever took place.
"The administrative officer of the Iranian Embassy, who was allegedlyattacked by two individuals, is Iran's former wrestling champion and hasdesert warfare training," one of the Uruguayan investigators toldthe local press in Montevideo. "This man runs three to four kilometersevery day and is very fit." He added: "He would have killed bothattackers in a second." The wrestler, 49-year old Amir Haghjoo, 49,claimed he was hit on the head with a full bottle of mineral water. Thepolice investigator noted that Haghjoo was nearly bald, and yet had "noteven a scratch" on his head.
He also claimed he was attacked with a barbecue knife. Said investigators:"What kind of expert terrorist would park his escape vehicle on theother side of Artigas Boulevard."
Iranian Ambassador Mohamed 'Ali Sarmadi told the press that the UruguayanPolice had arrested three suspects for the alleged April 4 incident, butpolice said they had no suspects and no clues "except a nickname theIranian official said he overheard." [Montevideo El Pais in Spanish4/8]
The United Nations Information Center said on April 7 notes that Iran'spopulation will reach 109.5 million by the year 2015, and top 170 millionby 2050. The latest figures released by the United Nations put the Iranianpopulation at 69,975,000 in 1996, of whom 46% are under the age of 15 andonly 4% are 65 or older.
The UN said that during 1990-1995 Iran's population grew annually ata rate of 2.9%, with 38 life births per 1,000 . The death rate stood at7 per 1,000, which is extremely low when compared to other developing countries,although this appears to be due primarily to the youth of the population,not the Iranian health care system. The average life expectancy is 67 years,while the infant mortality rate is 43 per 1,000 live births. [IRNA 4/7]