American’s arrest linked to UK embassy case — The arrest of on Thursday of Kian Tajbakhsh, the Iranian-American social scientist, has now been linked to the case of Hossein Rassam, the Iranian employee of the British embassy in Tehran still in detention despite vociferous protests from Britain and the EU. PressTV quotes a report on Basirat, a website it says is allied to the Revolutionary Guards, that says Tajbakhsh’s arrest “has forced the case of post-election unrest into a new phase”, adding that Tajbakhsh is “accused of cooperating with Rassam”. It gave no further details, but quoted the Basirat report as saying Rassam had “played a key role in providing guidance to diplomats and reporters of the British media during the recent unrest” and was arrested at a rally in Tehran on June 28. Basirat also said that parts of a 10-floor building in northern Tehran used as a presidential campaign headquarters- understood to be a reference to Moussavi’s election HQ – had been used to make programmes for BBC Persian “which does not have a media license to be active in Iran”.
Tajbakhsh, 47, who continued to work and live in Iran with his wife and year-old child despite previously being detained for four months in 2007 accused of attempting to foment a “velvet revolution”, was taken from his Tehran home late on Thursday. Computer equipment was confiscated and the home ransacked. A Time report quoted sources who knew him as saying he was not involved in the protests. But before his previous arrest he had been a consultant for the Open Society Institute established by the American financier George Soros. There have been accusations from the hardline media that Soros is involved in the current unrest, and it is noteworthy that the Soros connection was mentioned in the PressTV report. PressTV, Time, AP, Watching the Watchers
Blow for Guardian Council — The Expediency Council, which is chaired by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, has approved controversial legislation banning members of the Guardian Council from holding other government positions. PressTV reports that under the new law membership of the Guardian Council will be considered a government post and anyone holding another official position will have to relinquish one of them. Under Iranian law people are not allowed to hold more than one official position at the same time. The Expediency Council statement says anyone affected by the law who fails to resign from one of their posts within two months of its enactment will automatically be stripped of their position on the Guardian Council. The report highlights that two of those affected are Gholamhossein Elham, Ahmadinejad’s government spokesman and Justice Minister, and Ebrahim Azizi, the deputy head of the presidential office for human resources.
The legislation came before the Expediency Council because the Guardian Council attempted to block it after it was passed by the Majlis, branding it unconstitutional. In the dispute over the recent election the Guardian Council was accused of having members who were biased by their proximity to Ahmedinejad. The Tehran Times said: “The [Experts Assembly] decision was an important step as there have been complaints that some Guardian Council members who hold other posts may be biased in favour of or against certain political factions or groups in parliamentary or presidential elections.” PressTV, Tehran Times
Rezai reveals 6-point plan — As the chorus of complaint against the post-election crackdown continues to grow, has written an open letter emphasising the state’s duty to “establish in law the rights of people”, and proposing a six-point plan to resolve the current crisis. According to PressTV the six points are:
1- State bodies, politicians and the people make a distinction between the dissidents and dissatisfied people on the one side and the anti-revolutionary and riotous elements on the other;
2- Distinguish between the dissidents on the one side and foreigners and their domestic agents on the other [the translation leaves it unclear how this differs from 1];
3- Interaction and understanding between the dissidents and state bodies and the participation of all to safeguard the national interest and to enable political activities;
4- Politicians should pursue their – and the people’s – rights through legal channels and the state bodies should follow up the complaints of the people and politicians with vigour and without fear from anyone;
5- State bodies should discharge their duties toward maintaining order and safeguarding people’s rights according to the law;
6- Should [there remain] disputes, they should be settled according to the traditions of the [late] Imam [Khomeini] and the guidelines of the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei].
On the surface his stamement has been interpreted in Twitter posts as a slap in the face for the “martyrs” of the recent unrest, in that it leaves the final say-so still in the hands of Khamenei. On the other hand his call to show respect for constitutional law, recognising the genuine complaints of dissidents, and permitting the activities of poltical parties implies support for Moussavi and a criticism of the supreme leader, who for many days after the election, brushed off all objections to the result. It may be no coincidence that Rezai is secretary of the Expediency Council, which has been prominent in the news today (see blow for Guardian Council above) , and whose head, Ayatollah Rafsanjani, will now be addressing the nation at the next Friday prayers in Tehran (see below). There is more than whiff in the air of a plan coming together.
In similar vein today, the Enduring America website reports that the Iranian Association of Journalists has asked Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of the judiciary, to observe the constitution’s provisions on detentions, confessions and torture. “The Islamic Republic without religious freedom and democracy cannot exist,” they said. In addition, the website reports, Mehdi Karroubi’s newspaper Ettemad-e Melli has published a summary of Karroubi’s meetings in the past week with the families of those detained in the crackdown. PressTV, Enduring America
Ahmadinejad accuses West over ‘Hejab martyr’ — President Ahmadinejad today alleged that the apparent racist murder of an Egyption woman in a German court was “definitely planned in advance”, suggesting that the subsequent silence of “the German government, Obama, the UN Secretary General and senior European officials” proved their complicity. He demanded that the UN Security Council condemn Germany and impose sanctions on it.
Iran has never been slow to turn attacks on its conduct back on its critics and the latest example comes with the murder of Marwa al-Sherbiny in a Dresden courtroom by a neighbour she accused of racist behaviour. Al-Sherbiny, aged 31, three months pregnant and the mother of a 3-year-old, was stabbed 18 times on July 1. Today Ahmadinejad’s comments about advance planning were a strange echo of official Iranian claims about the murder Neda Agha-Soltan during the recent rioting. He said the murder proved the corruption in the German judicial system and was “a disgrace to the United Nations”. He added: “The attitude of Germany and most Western countries to her killing is similar to their stance on the massacre of innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They stood by and witnessed the killing of the Palestinian people, but finally condemned the Palestinians. The president likened Western goivernments toi medieval slavers: “Today the German government is acting like slavers. It smiles at this crime and doesn’t even express regret.”
Earlier, Qorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi, Iran’s prosecutor-general, insisted the Germans punish her killer, while about 150 protesters threw eggs at the gate of the German embassy in Tehran. The Islamic Students News Agency said Najafabadi condemned all types of racism, but discrimination against Muslims and “the creation of insecurity in Islamic communities in western countries” was a serious threat. The imperialist Western media claimed to support human rights while the most hideous crimes against humanity happened in western countries, he said, calling on his German counterpart to treat this example of racism “in an effective and deterrent way”. PressTV said another “senior Iranian cleric”, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, characterized the “heart-rending disaster” in Germany as clear proof of the West’s racist and biased stance towards Islam and Muslims. Later President Ahmadinejad added his own comdemnation,saying the incident “is clear evidence of corruption in the German judicial system and a disgrace to the United Nations”. The murdered woman has been dubbed the “hejab martyr” in Iran because she was attacked in part because her neighbour objected to her wearing a headscarf. Worshippers at Tehran’s weekly Friday prayers held a symbolic funeral for the woman. PressTV, ISNA, TVNZ, PressTV, PressTV
Missing student, 19, ‘shot dead’ — The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran today said the family of missing student Sohrab Aarabi had been officially told he was dead, shot through the heart. Websites and Twitter posts Saturday suggested he had died under torture in Evin prison. The 19 year-old student has been missing for 26 days. In a statement carried bby the Tehran Bureau website, the campaign said the revolutionary court summoned the family Saturday to look at several photographs of corpses, among which they identified Sohrab. “According to family members interviewed by the Campaign, his body had arrived at the coroner’s office on June 19, five days after his disappearance.” The campaign said the circumstances of his death and its disclosure left too many questions unanswered and demanded a full inquiry. Tehran Bureau
In other news
It has now been confirmed that Ayatollah Rafsanjani will take the next Friday prayers ceremony in Tehran. He is one of the rotating group of clergyman who lead the event, but has not put in an appearence for the last eight weeks. It is unclear whether this is his choice or the bidding of others. One post suggests the opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mohammad Khatami might also take part, which if true might indicate some kind of deal has indeed been patched up between the warring factions. Moussavi’s Facebook page (but not his website) suggests a big march will also be held. While it makes no mention of Mousssavi attending Friday prayers, it does say another reform leader, Mohammad Khatami, will be there. PressTV
Gen Sayed Hassan Firuzabadi, chief of Iran’s Joint Armed Forces, says government troops are ready to lay down their lives rather than back down to the street porotests. “Some may think that by protesting and chanting their slogans against us, we will back down, retreat and give up, but we are ready to sacrifice our lives, as we showed during the time of the [the Iran-Iraq war].” CNN
Iran gave a hero’s welcome today to the five officials freed by the Americans in Iraq last week after being held for more than two years on suspicion of involvement in sectarian violence. Manuchehr Mottaki, the Foreign Minister, said their detention was “inhumane” and threatened to take legal action against the Americans over the detentions. He also denied suggestions the release was part of a deal involving direct talks with the US. Reuters, Xinhua
Annual inflation fell by a small margin in the m onth to June 21, but exactly how much is open to question. Forbes quoted the Central Bank as saying it fell half a percentage point to 14.5%, but an AFP report quoting the newspaper Sarmayeh said the figure had fallen from 23.6% to 22.5%. Forbes, AFP
The province of Tehran is to be split in two, with a new Alborz province (the name of the mountain range to the north of Tehran), based on the city of Karaj 20km to the west. PressTV
Iran’s Opec governor has denied claims that Iranian oil output fell by 30,000 barrels a day in the first four months of 2009 because of political tensions. “So far no unusual issue has been reported in the amount of demand for Iran’s crude oil,” said Sayed Mohammad-Ali Khatibi told Mehr. PressTV
Lake Parishan, Iran’s largest freshwater lake which was once home to thousands of migratory birds, has dried up through drought and poor management, despite being part of a UN conservation programme. PressTV
Scientists at the Royan Research Institute in Isfahan have successfully cloned a cow to produce a calf they have named Boniana—meaning the foundation and principle. The institute had previously cloned a sheep and a goat. The Media Line
The latest video to catch our eye is this tribute to Ayatollah Khamenei. YouTube