In the midst of their closing statements the lawyers for the defendantsin the Mykonos trial asked a German University professor with expertisein Islamic law, to appear as an expert witness, to explain the nature ofa fatwa under Shiite Muslim law. The reason: If the Iranian religious leadershad issued a fatwa, then it would be the defendant's religious duty tocarry it out as devout Muslim. The ruse backfired as the professor toldthe court that fatwa is not a command but a directive. "Therefore,no one is obligated to act on a fatwa," he said.
The verdict in not now expected in April. Prosecutors have asked forlife sentences for the gunman and his Iranian accomplice.
The Journal of Commerce in its March 5 edition reported that the U.S.State Department has lodged an official protest with the German government,criticizing a German bank for its decision to extend new credits to a consortiumof companies headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani's son that hopes to exploit theSoroush oil field in the Persian Gulf. The consortium has won the bid fromthe government to go ahead with exploration provided it can secure financingfor the project.
The German bank has already provided $90 million of credits, with additional$70 million to follow. The Journal writes that since the loan goes to theconsortium rather than being directly invested in Iran's petroleum resources,it may not be in violation of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. Accordingto the Journal, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, member of the House InternationalRelations Committee, has taken up the issue with German officials. [IranInternational Times, March 14]
An Iraqi official, in a statement to the Iraqi News Service (INA) onMarch 13, dismissed remarks by 'Abdollah Najafi, head of the PrisonersCommission in Iran, accusing Iraq of still holding a large number of Iranianprisoners. The Iraqi called Najafi's remarks "baseless" and devoidof any logic. "There are no Iranian prisoners in Iraq; all of themhave been released," INA said.
It added that the accusations were meant "to cloud Iraq's continuedappeals to world public opinion and international humanitarian organizationsto pressure and urge the Iranian side to release 20,000 Iraqi prisonerswho are still held in Iranian jails and subjected to physical and mentaltorture."
Meanwhile, Salam daily in Tehran called for an end to frosty relationsbetween Baghdad and Tehran. Acknowledging that the people of Iran can neverbe happy as long as the Ba'athist regime stays in power in Baghdad, thenewspaper nevertheless urged the Foreign Ministry to explain why normalties have not been resumed "in order to unsettle and frighten theUnited States and its allies at this sensitive juncture, it seems necessaryto expand cooperation between the two countries," the editorial concludes.
Tehran's Resalat newspaper in its editorial last week has sharply criticizedthe Japanese government's decision to postpone the completion of the Karun-4power plant. The power plant with the final capacity of 2,000 megawattsis one of the most important plans for water and power development in Iran.After the opening up of the credits in the first phase, the Japanese blockedthe second and third tranche credits.
"It appears that the pretext given by the Japanese for obstructingthe implementation of the project is the same as the accusations leveledby the American and Zionist circles against the Islamic Republic of Iran.Should the past commitments be trampled underfoot on the basis of unprovenpretexts?" The editorial goes on to say "Despite their high degreeof economic capability in the political field, the Japanese are easilyinfluenced by the American and Zionist circles."
Summoning his best damage control skills, Vice-Chairman of Iran's MajlisForeign Policy Commission, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, assured the Japanesegovernment during a recent trip to Tokyo that the Islamic Republic willnot dictate its political will to other countries. [IRNA, March 12]
Iran News sees further hard times ahead for the flagging Iranian economyif the downward trend of oil prices continues. In an editorial which lamentthe Islamic Republic's "sheer dependence on oil revenues," thedaily admonishes the government for not developing any contingency plansshould oil prices drop below $17.50 per barrel, the benchmark used forthe third year of the Second 5-year Plan. The paper warned of severe repercussionson Iran's ability to meet its foreign debt obligations, and discountedthe possibility of non-oil exports picking up the slack since, as the paperadmits, they "have not grown satisfactorily." [Iran News, March8]
In a speech that makes a mockery of Islamic government's claims of self-sufficiencyand self-reliance, Ali Khamenei told to the workers of the Bandar ShahpourPetrochemical Complex that "the day we could stop selling our oilfor as much time as we would like, that day we can say we really own ouroil." Khamenei's statement was in stark contrast with Hashemi Rafsanjani'ssuggestion that oil producer nations should use their petroleum industryas an "arm" against the enemies of Islam. [Iran News, Paris,March 11]
Elias Hazrati, a Majlis deputy from Rasht and a member of the left-wingcoalition of the Imam's line, said presidential hopeful Hojj. MohammadKhatami was well-known in Iranian politics and no one should underestimatehis political experience. Khatami drew support from another left-wing group,the Hezbollah Association of the Majlis, as well. The association, whichis believed to have 120 to 130 members in the Parliament, held a meetingat the Majlis and unanimously voiced support of Khatami's candidacy. "Withthe G-6 [Servants of Construction faction] now supporting Hojjat ol-EslamMohammad Khatami in the 23rd May presidential elections, the candidatehas a chance to win in the first round rather than wait for the second;".Mr.Hazarati said.
The MP said the current presidential adviser on culture and chief ofthe National Library "is a highly respectable scientific figure inreligious and academic circles and a famous personality in Mashhad."[Iran News, March 10]
After being in denial for weeks over the escalating tensions betweenAnkara and Tehran, the Islamic Republic has finally confirmed that itsambassador to Ankara was shown the door. Ambassador Baqeri's virulent speechagainst the United States, Israel, and secular-minded Turks led to vehementprotests by the Turkish Army, secular politicians, and women's organizations.Initially, Tehran downplayed the incidents denying its Baqueri and twoother diplomats had been expelled. Subsequently, after claiming Mr. Baqeriwas in Tehran to attend a conference, the Foreign Ministry claimed thatthe diplomats were back because their mission in Turkey had ended.
Meanwhile, the Tehran press accused the "Zionists" for theescalating tension" between the two Muslim neighbors. Tehran Radiopinned the blame on the Turkish press for "using its freedom to mountanti-Iranian propaganda." [Iran Press Service, March 11]
In an interview with the Tehran newspaper Jomhouri-e Eslami, presidentialcandidate Khatami admits that the Islamic government has done little tomake Iranian society a law-abiding one. In fact, the government itselfhas not been a law-abiding one. Mr. Khatami's explained that because ofyears of despotic rule, "our people always tried to evade the lawand tried not to give in to the laws that were imposed by dictatorial anddespotic regimes." Hojj. Khatami hastened to add that the currentregime "arose from the people's heart," and is justified whenit strays .from the rule of law. [Jomhouri-e Eslami, 2/25]