The main headlines:
Analysts are still digesting the full import of comments broadcast on Iranian television by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in which he stated that the allegation that reformist leaders were backed by the US and Britain “has not been proven for me”. Initial reports of his words in a meeting with university students, most notably by AFP, put a strong anti-Ahmadinejad gloss on the comments. However, a different translation posted on the Tehran Bureau website suggested Khamenei was still insisting the post election disturbances were part of a plot which had been thwarted by Iranian vigilance. “There is no doubt that whether the responsible parties and champions [of the disturbances] know or don’t know, this event was a calculated move.”
Some reports quoted Khamenei as saying the judiciary should try those held in the recent unrest based on strong evidence and should not use “rumours and speculation” as the basis for their prosecution. This was taken by some to be a reference to the mass trials that have been taking place in Tehran. However, other versions of the text suggested he was talking specifically about the allegations of sexual abuse in prison, and insisting that only the most undeniable evidence would be acceptable.
In a clear suggestion to the reformists that it was time to shut up, according to the translation on Tehran Bureau, he said attempts to overshadow the triumph of the election itself with claims that what happened afterwards was more important were “tyrannical”. “While these issues [crimes] should be investigated and followed, they should not be allowed to ruin or overshadow the main event itself [the election]. Some overlook the great tyranny that befell the people and the ruling system after the election, and the disrespect that was shown towards the system in the face of other nations, and make it out to be as if Kahrizak or the events of the university dormitories are the main events. This itself is a tyrannical view.”
As usual, readers will for now have to make up their own minds between the various versions. It could be, much as with Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s speech to the Expediency Council earlier in the week, that what was actually said turns out to be not as important as what people thought was said. Tehran Bureau, PressTV, PressTV, AFP, Reuters, BBC
— A hint that Khamenei’s comments may have had another target came from a report in the Tehran Times newspaper in which Rafsanjani’s office attacked comments by Ahmadinejad’s infamous chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie. The report said Mashaie had accused Rafsanjani of using the post-election protest movement to put pressure on Khamenei. (The comment has an echo in Khamenei’s comment today that the “real instigators” of the troubles took advantage of the reformist leaders). Rafsanjani’s office said Mashaie’s remarks were hallucinations that were part of a complex plot to create conflict between the pillars of the establishment. link
— The family of Ayatollah Rafsanjani has filed a lawsuit against President Ahmadinejad over his accusations of corruption during the election, according to Rafsanjani’s son, Mehdi. He has also written to the state broadcaster demanding air time to defend himself against the “sheer lies” spoken about him during this week’s fourth round of the mass trials. Former president Ayatollah Khatami, meanwhile, has also issued a statement denying allegations made in court against him. link, link
What has also been notable about today has been the almost total official silence about the inauguration ceremony for the new head of the Supreme Court and Prosecutor-General in which key statements appear to have been made by Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the new Head of the Judiciary. The only English report to surface so far comes from the English language site of the state broadcaster. It says Larijani told the new appointees to restore the legal writ of the constitution and to regain powers of supervision over the courts. “The country’s Prosecutor-General has no supervision over the courts, even the Tehran courts for the time being. This duty and power should be revived …,” he said. This is seen as the start of a move to wrest the courts from the grip of Said Mortazavi, who refuses to go quietly from his post as Tehran’s prosecutor-general and the man behind the show trials. link
— The BBC Persian service has published a letter by the head judge of the Tehran homicide department of the Prosecutor-General’s office to the Head of Judiciary containing 15 suggestions for immediate action to improve the judicial system. The suggestions represent a clear set of rules about how to treat prisoners. The well-known blogger MikVerbrugge has provided a full translation and says that at the start of his letter the judge, named as Shamlou, states: “The crimes against Islam and the law, the murder and abuse are due to (top) officials breaking the law.” link
— The same blogger has also claims that part of the plan to clean up the judicial system is to revive the judicial police force to oversee implementation of legal rulings and monitor the activities of the regular security services. This, the blogger suggests quoting an “insider”, would wrest control back to the judiciary from the Revolutionary Guards to whom it was transferred by Khamenei during the Khatami presidency. link
— The mowjcamp website says MPs are reporting that three ultra-hardline colleagues may have been involved in the abuse of prisoners at the Kahrizak detention centre. A translation of the report on the NIAC website says the three were basij or revolutionary guard members before entering parliament. link
— ParlemanNews reports that a member of the special investigating committee who insists on remaining anonymous says the committee has received proof that some prisoners have been sexually abused with batons and bottles.
— An interesting sidebar on the latest mass trial is a PressTV report that one of the defendants, Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, actually criticised the court hearings and said he would continue to oppose the way the Ahmadinejad administration conducts politics. link
Tehran Bureau carries an interview between Etemad-e Melli and Farhad Tajari, spokesman for the commission investigating prisoner abuse, in which it emerges that reformist MPs were excluded from some of the most sensitive meetings with prisoners at the behest of Tehran’s notorious prosecutor-general Said Mortazavi. This coincides with a report on the Parlemannews website that some MPs are objecting to the presence on the investigating committee of three pro-Ahmadinejad MPs who deny all reports of mistreatment. The interview also includes some tough questioning about the interrogation of Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former deputy interior minister who was one of the defendants in the recent show trials. link
In his latest attack on the regime, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has said the system under Khamenei is a dictatorship in the name of Islam. In a missive to activists posted on his website, he said: “The biggest oppression … is the despotic treatment of the people in the name of Islam. I hope the responsible authorities give up the deviant path they are pursuing and restore the trampled rights of the people.” link
— Azam Taleghani, the daughter of the late Ayatollah Taleghani, has written to MPs saying that if they fail to act fairly and courageously in bringing “those who committed rape, torture and the killings of innocent protestors in prisons” to justice the country would lose complete faith in the parliament, the Rahesabz website says.
President Sarkozy of France says his country will push for severe economic sanctions against Iran if it refuses to discuss halting its nuclear programme. Earlier, the Iranian ambassador to France said the charges against French academic Clotilde Reiss suggested she was involved in nuclear espionage. PressTV, PressTV
— UN inspectors are set to report that Iran has slowed the expansion of its nuclear programme and is cooperating more with them, Reuters reports. link
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki had talks with his Canadian counterpart in Turkey in an attempt to mend the two countries’ diplomatic rift, exacerbated after the election by the continued detention of Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari. link
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US special envoy George Mitchell held talks lasting several hours in London today and there is general optimism of the relatively early resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, newspapers report. But it is also suggested that the Obama administration is holding out to Israel the prospect of tougher sanctions against Iran’s energy sector in return for a substantial freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to newspaper reports. link, link
The leader of Iraq’s largest Shia party, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, died today in a Tehran hospital after a battle with lung cancer. link