Thursday August 27 – the daily story

The main headlines:

Normal politics was all but swept aside today as thousands took to the streets of Tehran to mourn the Iraqi Shia leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who died in hospital Wednesday of lung cancer. Instead, funeral politics took their place. It is the custom to bury the dead as quickly as possible, but Hakim’s body is going on a two-day “tour of mourning” that took in the holy city of Qom today before shifting to Baghdad and the Iraqi holy centre of Najaf. The tour is seen as helping to raise the profile of his Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council ahead of elections in Iraq next January. link

Hamid Rasai, a hardline MP, has called on the Head of the Judiciary,  Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to investigate the claims of embezzlement made against Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s youngest son, Mehdi Hashemi, at this week’s mass trial hearing. In an interview with Iran newspaper, the MP said the chief justice should destroy the influence of the children of top officials and the powerful. He also told him to warn Rafsanjani and other top officials that their children were not exempt from the law. link

Abdolfattah Soltani, a founding member of the  Centre for the Defence of Human Rights headed by the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, was freed from prison today on bail of 1 billion rials (about $100,000), according to AFP. link

— Ali Abtahi, a former Vice-President who has been detained for more than 70 days and whose confession was the centre-piece of the first of the mass trials, has revived his web blog  ( with the “permission” of the prison authorities. But the website Keeping the Change, which picks up on a report on Moussavi’s Facebook page, says close reading of the post “clearly shows Abtahi has been ordered by government officials to continue his blogging and strongly suggests that Abtahi’s blog site is to be transformed, over the course of the next several entries, into a platform to build upon and extend his earlier confession at the Tehran trials.” The website  says this offers the regime a priceless tool to keep prisoner confessions in the public eye during breaks between trials. “The overall pro-establishment message seems clear. If for no other reason, the government is likely to keep Abtahi in prison and blogging, for some time.” link

American television has now broadcast the video of the “unmarked graves at Behesht Zahra cemetery that NowRuz News says contain  the bodies of unidentified prisoners secretly buried by the authorities. link

— Hanif Mazruie, editor-in-chief of NowRuz News, has explained in detail how his news organisation found out about the graves and how they then covered the story. “Our only mission in this matter is to serve our duties as journalists,” he said. link

— Mahmoud Rezaiyan, the former boss of the cemetery, has denied that he was sacked from his position.  “I have been retired,”he told the Islamic Republic News Agency. link

Security authorities are putting pressure on Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Imam Khomeini, to cancel a speech due to be delivered by former president Ayatollah Khatami  on Laylat al-Qadar (the most holy nights of the year) at Khomeini’s shrine in  south Tehran, according to Moussavi’s Facebook page, quoting a report on the rouydadnews website. It is believed they fear it could be the catalyst for a protest by millions , the report says. “Moussavi and Karoubi have  announced they will attend Khatami’s speech. “

PressTV sought to redress the balance of interpretation of Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech to students Wednesday by repeating the speech in more detail and emphasising that Khamenei urged support for President Ahmadinejad. link

Israeli  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, during his vit visit to Germany today. “There is not much time” to halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” he said. link

— At a Berlin news conference the German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her threat of new energy and financial sanctions against Iran on the nuclear issue. The day before French President Sarkozy also warned of “severe” new sanctions. link

A top Israeli defence expert says Iran has made a “technological and strategic breakthrough” with its new Sejil-2 missile that means it could strike European states within three or four years. link

— The Obama administration intends to abandon the plan to station missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech republic, ostensibly intended to counter a long-range missile threat from Iran, the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported.  Russia has loudly characterised the Bush administration plan as a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent. link

The Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre has  released a report documenting and analysing the Iranian government’s massacre of possibly as many as 30,000 political prisoners during the summer of 1988.  Much of the material presented in the report, Deadly Fatwa: Iran’s 1988 Massacre, comes from interviews with survivors and relatives of victims. link, to download document

One of the most unique Parthian sites in Iran, known as the Kuh-e Khajeh, remains in danger of total destruction and the cultural authorities have not take any action to ensure its protection, said Rasul Haj-Moussavi, director of Sistan’s Cultural Heritage Base. link

— Cultural heritage officials in Fars province have rejected reports that current mining operations are destroying the Achaemenid Gondashlu stone mine used to supply the stones for Persepolis. link

Egypt has banned any mail bearing an Iranian postal stamp featuring a picture of Marwa al-Sherbini, the Egyptian woman brutally murdered in a Dresden, Germany courtroom last July. link

Iran’s football manager Afshin Qotbi has met officials from Arsenal and Manchester City clubs in an attempt to increase cooperation between Iran and England. link


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