Saturday June 27 – the daily story

Votes recount snub — Mir-Hossein Moussavi and his fellow beaten presidential candidate Mehdi  Karroubi have not taken up the Guardian Council’s offer to join a special committee to organise a recount of 10% of the ballots. PressTV says instead that Moussavi wants an independent arbitration  committee to resolve the crisis. In a letter to the council (translation below the Persian), Moussavi says:  “Since parts of the legal complaints are about the breaking of the law and dereliction of impartiality and the behaviour of some members of your council as well as the Minister of Interior, the agents of the Interior ministry, an impartial review of this case fundamentally cannot be conducted by the Guardian Council. Neither can it, as before, be left to a committee that is selected by your council, not to mention that since some members of your council do not have an impartial view and have voiced their opinions regarding the verdict before looking into the matter, doing so will not help to clarify the situation or to pacify the public perception.” This position means that the other presidential loser, Mohsen Rezai, will also not join the committee. Although he had earlier withdrawn his objections to the vote, he had said he would join if the other two did.

Moussavi’s letter to the council set out in some detail his allegations of electoral fraud. Since I haven’t done so previously, I’ll carry them here:

1- Brazen and clear violation of article 68 of the electoral law, widespread utilisation of governmental resources and public funds, and open involvement of some members of the government, senior managers, governors and executive staff in favour of the incumbent;
2- Lack of impartiality of the state broadcaster, carrying unproven allegations some of which have been deemed prosecutable by the attorney general of the country, and widespread and partial promotions by governmental media (IRNA, governmental newspapers and news sites) in favour if the incumbent;

3- Widespread violations of article 33 of the election laws … as mentioned below:

—  Buying votes by distributing dividends of Edalat stocks and cash disbursements to the families covered by support organizations, to villagers, tribes, and the like;

·–Threatening and frightening people through government agents, and disbursement of cash to Islamic councils and influential individuals …

— Failure to verify the emptiness of ballot boxes prior to being sealed, as well as the loss of ballots and transportation of the ballots and ballot boxes outside voting stations, in light of  received reports and the absence of observers;

—  Denying a voting opportunity to a substantial portion of eligible voters by limiting the voting hours, and multiple violations on the day of the elections with respect to the handling of the ballots and creating ballot shortages in voting stations;

·– Fraud in elections as well as violations in the counting and reporting of the votes. Despite printing an extra 12 million ballots, and printing another 2.5 million (or even more according to some sources) new ballots without serial numbers with the approval of one of the members of the Guardian Council the day before the elections, we witnessed a shortage of ballots in voting stations. Without doubt, by matching the ballot stubs against the database, the extent of it can be proven.

·– Suggestions to vote for a specific candidate by the staff and observers at voting stations, and essentially the formation of a substantial portion of the Guardian Council observers at voting stations from supporters of the incumbent candidate;

·– Creating an atmosphere of fear for voters of other candidates … in the week before the elections, and attacking the campaign offices and their supporters in legal gatherings across the country;

·– Creating multiple limitations for candidates’ observers to  attend the executive board meetings, attend the ballot counting and aggregation centres, and at a substantial number of voting stations;

—  Rendering the SMS network inoperable during election day when it was a known mechanism for voting station observers from my campaign to report any violations for legal pursuit, and disconnecting the mobile and landline phones of the committee tasked with protecting the votes during the aggregation of the announcement of the results;

4- The design of an unverifiable illegal process for the aggregation of the counted votes, and for announcing the results of the vote in an pre-engineered fashion (before the final results were announced, they were reported on sites close to the government, IRGC, and Kayhan newspaper);

5- Widespread and illegal interference of sections of the armed forces before and during the elections, which is directly against the wishes of the late Imam;

6- The existence of more than 170 voting stations with ballot casting ratios of between 95 to 140 percent;

7- Attacking campaign offices in Tehran and the provinces, sealing off  my campaign headquarters, and the arrest of my campaign chief and staff that limited our ability to comprehensively document the electoral violation cases.

‘Give us your orders!’ — A sign that the Moussavi campaign has become rudderless is this video plea from Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Rome-based filmmaker who has been ac ting as an unofficial spokesman at large for Moussavi.  According to the  Huffington Post’s translation her urges “President Moussavi”:

Give us your orders!
Political power is gained by making people act,
and is lost in the contrary case.
The liars and stealers of the people’s vote,
by buying time, are weakening people’s social powers. President Moussavi:
do not keep silent, do not wait, give us orders !

But according to Moussavi’s website, he has caved into government pressure and now supports only legal gatherings. One such is set for Sunday,  at Ghorba mosque, to mourn the victims of the violence a week ago.

Corruption threat — President Ahmadinejad appeared to rattle Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s cage again Saturday when he renewed his pledge top crack down on corruption. He told a gathering of legal officials:  “There are always a small group of people who refuse to give in to justice. They are the source of oppression and all of the country’s problems.” During the election the president openly accused Rafsanjani of rampant corruption.

Battle of the ayatollahs ‘is over’ — An analysis on the tehran bureau website suggests the confrontation between Khamenei and Rafsanjani is at an end, with the former the clear victor. The file, by “Hannah H in Tehran”, suggests the events of yesterday gave out a clear signal of this. The article says Rafsanjani had been due to address Friday prayers in Tehran to answer the veiled threats and accusations made against him by Khamenei the week before. (This is the first time I have seen this suggested – all reports previously suggested Khamenei would return to make another speech). In the end he was prevented or did not turn up and a hardline ally of Khamenei spoke instead. “The god squad in Qom which had waited out the turmoil to see who was more likely to come out of the ring a winner before deciding which side to support has slowly begun to realize [Khamenei] has more pull and now one by one they are coming forth calling for an end to the dispute.” The report paints a grim picture of Tehran today, suggesting even that officials are spray-marking the doors of houses where the cries of Allah-o Akbar are heard at night, possibly for future action or simply as a threat. It ends: “People seem to have lost their hope and to have realized that the change they were looking for will never come. They seem to have accepted that they have no power to assert their rights and justice is deaf, dumb and blind. The winner of the Ayatollah wars has proven his point and taught everyone a lesson.”

Where is persiankiwi? — Tweets have appeared suggesting one of the better and most prolific Iranian tweeters, @persiankiwi may have been been arrested. He/she has not posted on Twitter since the evening of June 24 when these three messages were put up:

We must go – dont know when we can get internet – they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names – now we must move fast

Tthank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green – pls remember always our martyrs – Allah Akbar – Allah Akbar – Allah Akbar

Allah – you are the creator of all and all must return to you – Allah Akbar

‘It was a military coup’ — The NPR website carries a link to an interview with Mohsen Sazegara, one of the founders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a former deputy prime minister, who says Iran has effectively undergone a military coup. Sazegara held several high positions after the revolution until he fell out with the leadership over the direction it was taking and was arrested in 2003. When he was later freed he went into exile and now lives in the US. In the interview he says the guards have evolved into a “strange” organisation with its fingers in every pie. ” It is like a political party, a secret service and is like a foreign ministry … they manipulated events in the Middle East.” Describing the coup, he says it was the work of a very small group of guards organised by Khamenei’s son Mojtaba.  “Right after the election, 11 o’clock at night, was a military coup because they went to Moussavi’s headquarters – five persons from the Revolutionary Guard – and told him that, ‘Yes, the leader says that this is true, you have won the election, you are the elected president, but you can’t be the president. Ahmadinejad should remain in the position. And then they started to invent those fake numbers in Ministry of Interior. And right after that they started to arrest the people, to disconnect the country, to dismiss the reporters, and that is the reason that we call it a military coup.”  The claim echoes this  article in the New York Times two weeks ago.

Another Ayatollah speaks out — Another senior Iranian cleric has denounced the crackdown.  Quoting the semi-official ILNA news agency, the Azerbaijani Trend News agency says that in a meeting with the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Abdul-Karim Moussavi Ardebili blamed the turmoil on the actions of those who organised the elections. “We do not have to pacify the protest by force. The issue must be solved in a different way,” he said. “We need to give protesters the right to speak on television. Answers of the opposite side should also be communicated to people through television. Let the people decide who is right and who is not. The people will not accept senseless talk.” The report said the meeting had been held to focus “on control of the Guardian Council over presidential elections” and the candidates protests, without elaborating.

The angry MP — This highly entertaining video of MP Hajsheikh Alikhani, a declared Moussavi supporter, tearing into the conservatives at a Majlis session has caused some online controversy.  Some have claimed it is a fake, which it patently is not (hard to fake speaker Larijani behind him). Others have suggested it was taken today, partly because of the apparent 26 SAT dateline and his congratulations to the leadership for ordering an investigation of the vote by the Guardian Council (they thought this referred to the latest move to recount 10% of the ballots). However, as the highly reliable and level-headed blogger Night Owl reports, it is actually from June 16. It is none the less interesting in demonstrating how deep the divisions have gone in Iran – and to put a lie to the assertion of some in the west that this is simply a revolt by the educated middle class.

Russian shift — Iran predictably hit back at the Group of Eight a day after G8 ministers meeting in Trieste issued a statement deploring the crackdown on dissent. After much negotiation between the Italians and French on the one side, and Russia on the other, the statement expressed “our solidarity with those who have suffered repression while peacefully demonstrating and urge Iran to respect human rights, including freedom of expression.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi today said Iran rebuffed the criticism. “The world expects foreign ministers of the eight industrialised nations to focus on their predetermined agenda and raise serious problems that their countries and the international community are faced with,” he said.

However, what is most significant about the spat is that, by signing up to the final statement,  Russia has clearly shifted position on Iran from outright support of the Ahmadinejad regime to strong disapproval of its actions since the election. In the end it’s only real demand was that the word condemn was changed to deplore in the statement. This was also flagged by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, quoted by Interfax on Friday  as saying: “We naturally express our most serious concern about the use of force and the death of civilians.” He also  urged Iran  to resolve the problem  “in accordance with democratic procedures”.

This clearly alarmed the Iranians, who sent the Islamic Republic News Agency off to seek clarification from Moscow. It didn’t get a huge amount. Andrei Nesterenko, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, was quoted as saying: “Russia’s stance concerning the result of the election in Iran is quite clear.” Of course it is. They congratulated Ahmadinejad on his victory. It’s what happened next they are now complaining about. And if that is clear as mud, consider this: what was behind PressTV’s reporting of the somewhat lame Russian reassurance if it wasn’t actually to reinforce in  fulsome detail the message that the Russians have shifted? You sometimes wonder what’s going on at that organisation.

Back to the wider row, spokesman Qashqavi,while attacking EU President Hans-Gert Pottering for making “interfering and unacceptable remarks”, did not entirely rule out Pottering’s suggestion of an EU mission to Iran. “If the president and other members of the European Parliament pay a visit to Iran within a framework of mutual respect and interests, it can be regarded as a positive step toward the expansion of parliamentary ties between Iran and Europe. Otherwise, it will not be fruitful at all.”

At the same time both Britain and Italy have expressed opposition to seeking new sanctions against Iran. David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary, said: “It is for the Iranian people to choose their government and for the Iranian government to protect their own people against violence.”

TV record — The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network (IRIB) says it is going to produce a documentary on the protests “in a bid to develop Iranian culture”.  Morteza Mir-Bagheri, the network’s deputy managing director,  said the documentary would be “educational to the public as well as the political movements and analysts”‘

Ugly George — Someone should do something about “Gorgeous” George Galloway. The Scots MP has been at it again on Iranian TV this week, backing Ahmadinejad and the Islamic republic and denouncing the protesters  (and by all accounts getting paid for it). You can read about it (and how to obtain all seven videos of the rant)   here.


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