Another dissident writer has been murdered in Iran, according to familymembers who were quoted recently by the Paris-based Iran Press Service.
The body of Ebrahim Zal Zadeh, a 45-year old intellectual, was foundon March 29 half buried in a field outside of Tehran, according to familymembers quoted by IPS.
Zal Zadeh was best known for publishing the works of one of Iran's bestknown national poets, Ahmad Shamou. He was arrested one month ago by plainclothes agents of the Intelligence Ministry as he was going to buy flowers,and was taken to an MOIS safe house, family members and friends said.
"The family was told by the Information Ministry not to say anythingabout the arrest of Mr. Zal Zadeh or he would be killed," said AbbasSamark, an Iranian film maker living in Hannover, Germany.
Zal Zadeh's body was found outside his car, which contained dried flowersand his press credentials stuffed behind the back seat. Zal Zadeh ownedthe Ebtekar (Initiative) Publishing House and edited a monthly literaryjournal, Me'yar. His assassination was condemned by the Iranian WritersAssociation in Exile. [IPS 3/31]
Norway has became the first European country to call for economic sanctionsagainst the Islamic Republic. Norway's position would go far beyond theD'Amato legislation which is aimed at denying Iran access to foreign capitalto develop its petroleum resources, to encompass some form of multilateraltrade embargo. State Secretary Jan Egeland said last week at the annualmeeting of the United Nations Subcommission on Human Rights in Geneva that"the time has now come for joint, coordinated, international action"aimed at forcing Tehran to stop promoting terrorism.
Mr. Egeland mocked the European Union's "critical dialogue"with Tehran. "Neither existing international mechanisms nor any bilateraldialogue have been able to correct the intolerable situation caused byIran and the fatwa" against Salman Rushdie, he said.
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi replied thatNorway's "uncalled for position is unrealistic and beyond Norway'spolitical credit." [Iran Times, March 28]
The Berlin-based League of Iranian Democrats has called on all "freedom-lovingIranians" from every ideological background to gather en mass in Berlinon April 10, the day the Mykonos Tribunal is set to pronounce its finalverdict on the assassination of four Iranian dissident Kurds.
In its call, the LID says the time has come for all Iranians to "raisetheir voice against the Islamic Republic's policy of terrorism outsideand suppression inside on the one hand and Germany's policy of flirtingwith the Iranian ruling criminals on the other."
The verdicts against Kazem Darabi, an Iranian national and four Lebaneseaccomplices could set off a firestorm if the judges implicate the IslamicRepublic's clerical rulers, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Khamene'i.It would then be up to the Federal Prosecutor's Office to issue warrantsfor their arrest, as they did with Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahianlast year.
Whatever the verdict, the case will put Germany and indeed, the EuropeanUnion, in the hot seat. In Tehran last week, the regime resumed its scarcelyveiled warnings to Germany. "If the final verdict of the so-calledMykonos trial were politically oriented or illogical, then it would definitelyhave a negative impact on bilateral ties and even lead to a crisis,"said Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, the Majlis Speaker and the front-runner in thepresidential election. [Iran Press, March 28]
"If there is any Iranian retaliation for the verdict," EUofficials said in separate interviews last week, "we will respondcollectively and at the EU level. In the worst case," which the officialssaid would be a violent attack against the German embassy in Tehran orrenewed terrorist attacks on European soil, "we would seriously considera break in diplomatic ties with Tehran." [The Iran Brief, 4/2/97]
Long-Island's Newsday, quoting U.S. counter-terrorism specialists, claimsthat "the alleged mastermind behind the bombing that killed 19 U.S.airmen in Saudi Arabia last year fled to Iran shortly after the attackand lives there under the protection of its theocratic government."
Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed Mughassil, the alleged terrorist, fled to Syriaafter the bombing and was then whisked away to Iran, according to a U.S.counter-terrorism specialist familiar with details of the Saudi and FBIinvestigations into the bombing. Mughassil "lives under the protectionof, as a guest of, the Iranian government," the source said. [Newsday,3/29].
A deportation hearing has been set for April 28 for a Saudi Shiite arrestedin Canada in connection with the Khobar Tower bombing. U.S. officials believethat Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh was on the payroll of the Iranian intelligenceservice. While under surveillance by Canadian authorities for several months,he was observed making several contacts with the Iranian embassy in Ottawaand calling contacts in Iran, with whom he spoke in Farsi. Canadian intelligenceofficials had obtained authorization to wiretap his phone conversationsafter receiving heads-up from the Saudi government about Sayegh's possibleinvolvement in the bombing as the suspected driver of the getaway car.[NYT, 3/28]
Both Mughassil and Sayegh are believed to have been recruited by Iranianintelligence in the holy city of Qom while engaged in religious studies.They then received military training from the Iranian-supported Hezbollahterrorist organization in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, an area controlled bythe Syrian army.
Jomhouri-e Eslami daily, the official mouthpiece of the clerical regimein Tehran, has called the Jordanian soldier who opened fire on Israelischool girls last month "pious," in a commentary entitled "Flamesof Wrath Against Zionism Were Demonstrated by Jordanian Soldier Ahmad Mustafa."The commentary makes no mention of the soldier's apparent mental disorderor of the fact that his colleagues rushed to restrain him after he openedfire on the schoolgirls.
According to Jomhouri-e Eslami, those responsible for the killings areJordanian leaders who "began efforts to establish political relationswith the Zionists. It has been almost two years since the Jordanian Governmentis working toward the consolidation and expansion of these relations inthe various fields. But the outcome of all these efforts can be clearlyseen today in the bullets fired by a pious soldier who selflessly killedthe savage Zionists."
The commentary warns King Hussein of Jordan of the same fate as Sadat's."The hand that was able to kill the criminal Sadat in the land ofthe pharaohs because he visited occupied Palestine and committed treasonagainst the Egyptian nation, exists today in Jordan," the paper, whichrepresents the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i and Majlisspeaker Nateq-Nouri, warned. [Jomhouri-e Eslami, 3/16]]
Three supporters of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shirazi, who were arrestedon January 14-15, 1997, have been subjected to "severe bouts of torture,"a support group based in London alleges.
Quoting reports from inside the prison where they are being held, thegroup said the three - Hojj. Seyed Hussain Faali, Hojj. Amin Ghafoori,and Imaad Saaberi - were "in critical condition" and were "unableto walk and to sit properly."
Faali and Ghafoori have been arrested on several previous occasions.Both were subjected to torture and underwent major operations after theirrelease. (Faali required surgery on his spinal column in August 1996 asa result of previous torture, the group said).
Despite their dangerous condition, the three have been denied medicalattention. [Supporters of the Iranian Muslim Nation, 3/25]
The Islamic Republic of Iran has allocated 75 billion rials in the currentyear's budget, to combat what it called "cultural onslaught,"one billion more than the previous year. Part of this campaign calls formore entertaining and attractive programming from a state-controlled televisionnetwork aimed at appealing to younger Iranians [International Ettela'at,March 14]
The budget allocation will also fund the Special Unit for CombatingCultural Onslaught [SUCCO] that has been set up to crack down on improperuse of Islamic dress; immoral relationships; the possession or use of satelliteequipment; and gangs involved in corruption, gambling, and the productionand distribution of pornographic videotapes.
The head of SUCCO, Mohammad Kazemi, discussed its mission and objectiveswith Tehran's Salam newspaper in broad terms. "We are dealing withlarge number of people here." Asked by Salam if people who do notwear Islamic dress properly can expect to go to jail, Kazemi noted that"the Islamic Penal Code stipulates imprisonment as a punishment forpropagating corruption and prostitution. According to Article 639 of theIslamic Penal Code, any person who propagates corruption can be imprisoned."
SUCCO has 13 branches across the country, he said. [Salam, March 18]
In his interview with CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace, PresidentAli Akbar Rafsanjani categorically denied that Tehran had played any rolein ordering or carrying out assassinations against Iranian dissidents abroad,calling suggestions of Iranian sponsored terrorism "false and lies."Instead, Rafsanjani trotted out the well-worn litany that the Islamic Republichas been the major victim of terrorist attacks, coming from the Iraqi-basedMujahidin-e Khalq organization.
As far as Iranian involvement in state-sponsored terrorism was considered,Rafsanjani said, "not one single case of all these accusations couldhave been proved so far... With all the publicity and fanfare that theFrench made about [the Bakhtiar case], they finally acquitted Iran,"he asserted. "There were people who were announced as culprits andwere condemned and they were officers working for the French government."[CBS 60 Minutes 3/23; IRNA 3/23]
In fact, after a five week trial, the French court convicted two Iraniangovernment agents for their direct role in Dr. Shahpour Bakhtiar's assassinationin 1991, acquitting a third man whose passport had been used by MOIS forone of the killers whose real identity was never discovered by the court.[AP 12/6/94]
Six months later, a second trial in France sentenced in absentia sixother Iranian government officials to life in prison on charges of plotting,planning, and carrying out the double murder. [The Iran Brief 6/16/95]
On the question of temporary marriages or "sigheh," Rafsanjanistrongly supported a practice that has angered Iranian women as a formof legalized prostitution, calling it "a solution toward the sexualproblems existing" and as something that everybody "accepts inthe Shi'ite school of thought."
Rafsanjani also denied any suggestion that Iran might be interestedin developing nuclear weapons, but added that despite abundant oil andgas resources, "nuclear technology is extremely vital for a countrylike Iran."
Behzad Nabavi, the member of the Mujahedin of the Islamic RevolutionOrganization and a former cabinet member in the 1980's, recently said thathe was never in total agreement with the "Imam's Line" whileAyatollah Khomeini was alive but had to go along with it for reasons ofpolitical expediency. His remarks apparently offended the Islamic Councilof Students of Isfahan University which retorted that they would neverallow "the line of Imam to be trampled on in the name of the politickingby some people." [Ettala'at, March 11, Resalat, March 12]
With the presidential campaign now in full swing, presidential candidate,Hojj. Mohammad Reyshari, who is also the secretary general of the Societyfor the Defense of the Values of the Islamic Revolution [SDVIR], has calledfor equal access to the media. He deplored the expenditure of "colossalsums and waste of money during the presidential elections," and saidthat "the government should make sure that all candidates have equalaccess to television programs."
In the meantime, the Majlis Hezbollah Association [MHA] issued a statementin support of Mohammad Khatami's candidacy. Khatami now enjoys the supportof Servants of Construction as well as Militant Clerics Society and theCoalition of the Line of Imam.
Quoting Middle East intelligence sources, the Israeli daily Yedi'otAharonot claims that last December Iran supplied Syria with 25 fighterjets that are currently stationed in airports around Damascus, as wellas 50 Iranian-built Scud C surface-to-surface missiles.
The daily also reported that the Islamic Republic has agreed to financeSyria's procurement of Russian weapons by supplying Russia with Iranianoil and consumer goods. Russia has refused to sell weapons to Syria fora long time because Syria is still deeply in debt to Russia for Weaponspurchased from the former Soviet Union. [3/27]
As a way of deflecting criticism from Iran's dismal human rights recordat home, the Islamic Republic Representative to the Human Rights Commissionin Geneva, Ali Reza Ghanavi, launched an attack on Western countries whichhave been critical of Tehran's total disregard of basic human rights. Ghanavisaid that while there was an effective mechanism in Western countries againstanti-Jewish sentiments, there were no such protections for the growingMuslim community, and some countries were even trying to revive the oldanti-Islamic attitude of the Crusades. [IRNA, 3/26]
In case anyone was wondering what was going to happen to outgoing PresidentHashemi-Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Khamene'i has now given him a new job, whichgives some hint of things to come.
In a decree dated March 17, Khamene'i appointed him to chair a revisedand strengthened executive body, that was established by Ayatollah Khomeiniin 1988 to give him legal authority to overturn decisions of the Councilof Guardians. (The Council of Guardians acts in an analogous way to theU.S. Supreme Court, in that it must approve legislation passed by the Parliamentbefore it can become law).
The body, known as the Council on the Discernment of Expediency, canoverturn laws, overrule the Council of Guardians, and in essence, do whateverthe Supreme Leader wishes. It was created by Khomeini in 1988 as a meansof eviscerating the more religiously conservative Council of Guardians,who opposed him on numerous issues, especially when he sought to enhancethe powers of the Leader. At times, the Council has also originated legislationthat was sought by the Supreme Leader.
Little has been heard from the Council in recent years, and Khamene'i'sdecree is clearly aimed at resurrecting it as a major source of politicalpower for his own use. For all the Iran analysts who have written aboutthe "conflicts" between Khamene'i and Rafsanjani over the years(as in, the "conservative" Khamene'i versus the "pragmatic"Rafsanjani, or the "anti-Western" Khamene'i versus the more "open"Rafsanjani), the blinders should now come off: through this decree, Khamene'ihas shown that he has no stronger or more reliable ally than Rafsanjani.
Informed sources in Tehran believe that by appointing Rafsanjani tohead a reinforced Council of Expediency, Khamene'i is paving the way tonaming him as "Deputy Leader," a position that currently doesnot exist. They also believe that Rafsanjani will use his new powers toresurrect another position - that of Prime Minister - that was droppedin 1989 at his own request, as a means of enhancing the power of the presidencyRafsanjani assumed in 1989. A revived Prime Minister would therefore diminishthe powers of Rafsanjani's successor as President.
A strong Council of Expediency would also serve to limit the power ofthe Majlis, by giving greater authority to the central power organs ofthe regime itself. [The Iran Brief 4/2]