Saturday August 29 – the daily story

The main headlines:

The much expected announcement of the sacking of Said Mortazavi, nicknamed the Torturer of Tehran and the Butcher of the Press, as Tehran’s Prosecutor-general was made by Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Head of the Judiciary, today.  Mortazavi’s departure marks something of a seismic shift in Iran’s judiciary, if not in a much wider context. He has held the post since 2003 and, according to Muhammad Sahimi, the highly authoritative columnist for the Tehran Bureau website,  he reported only to Ayatollah Khamenei, “his strongest supporter and patron”.

Mortazavi is credited with the closure of more than 120 newspapers and the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and political activists. But he became most notorious for the death in custody in 2003 of the Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi, with strong suggestions that he was personally involved in the interrogation that killed her, setting off a massive diplomatic row with Canada that lingers to this day. His hand is seen by reformists to lie heavily on the mistreatment of prisoners arrested since the election, and unconfirmed reports have regularly surfaced on Twitter that a dossier of crimes is being compiled against him.

His replacement as Tehran’s Prosecutor-general is Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, who was the judicial head in Khuzestan province and is regarded as more moderate and pragmatic in his approach to Islamic jurisprudence. According to the Los Angeles Times he has spoken out against stoning those accused of adultery and opposes “forced marriages”. The official Khuzestan judiciary website quotes him as  saying: “As long as certain people think they are entitled to kill others without facing punishment, even judges cannot prosecute them. People make judgments about the system based on the conduct of the judges.” Jafari-Dolatabadi faces an immediate test in tackling the mass trials against reformist supporters that Mortazavi is said to have masterminded.

Other reports said Ayatollah Larijani also appointed a three-man team to investigate the post-election unrest, the alleged abuse of detained protesters and, pointedly, the nighttime attack on the Tehran University dormitory shortly after the election, which has again be come something of a hot topic. “It is required that you consistently pursue and oversee the proceedings, identify offenders and main elements and firmly confront them regardless of their ranks,” Larijani has instructed the panel. He also named Hojatoleslam Ahmad Vaezi Jozei as deputy head of the judiciary for training affairs. AP, PressTV, Tehran Bureau, Wikipedia, LAT, AFP

— Mehdi Karoubi has written to Ayatollah Larijani offering to hand over his documents on the sexual abuse of prisoners. Providing they were guaranteed security, he also adi he would introduce the victims for questioning.

— The Human Rights Watch organisation has also written to Larijani urging him  to set up an independent investigation of the post-election crackdown. link

Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards and a man who is holding as lot of press conferences these days, today blamed “disorganised forces, whose motive remains unknown” for the attack on the Tehran University dormitory shortly  after the election. He said an inquiry into the “harsh … unacceptable … criminal” activities in the dormitory was ongoing and those responsible would soon be tried. “It was the plainclothes – unaffiliated with the Basij or any other force – who acted on their own.” link

Is the president a worried man? As he issued a call for the Majlis to ”trust their friend and brother and leave the issue of the Cabinet’s efficiency to the president”, one senior MP said today he expects a third of Ahmadinejad’s picks to be turned down when the cabinet is debated Sunday. Ahmad Tavakoli told ILNA news agency that lack of experience was a key factor. link, link

— In an earlier report PressTV said the parliament’s key Principlist bloc had decided to vote against the three women ministers Ahmadinejad had proposed. Interestingly they reject Susan Keshavarz  for the education post because she worked in the campaign headquarters of Mir-Hossein Moussavi during the election. Curiously the reformist bloc says it is going to support one of the women ministers, but it does not appear to be Keshavarz. Rather, PressTV says, they will back Marziyeh Vahid-Dastjerdi for the health position, despite the fact that she is married to the hardline editor-in-chief of Kayhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, the literary scourge of the reformists. link

— To add to his woes several posts on Twitter suggest mounting anger among conservatives at the way Ahmadinejad appeared to contradict the Supreme Leader in his Friday prayers speech. Where Ayatollah Khamenei had said he did not believe Moussavi and other reformist leaders were working for the US and UK, the President repeated  almost that very same claim in insisting they be prosecuted.

— In one way at least Ahmadinejad seems to be learning the corrupt ways of the West. Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s Facebook page highlights a report on the Ayandenews website about lavish entertaining of MPs to secure their vote for the President’s appointments. The report says that, while Ahmadinejad accuses reformists of abusing public funds, there was a very costly Iftar (fast-breaking) dinner party on the night of August 25 in a luxury Tehran hotel at which some of the Presidents nominees lobbied invited MPs to secure their vote. The report alleges that the meal for 200 guests was bankrolled by a government bank to the tune of 40 million rials (about $4,000).

— The mowjcamp website has found another Ahmadinejad acolyte apparently telling fibs about his educational qualifications. This time Kamran Daneshjoo, the proposed minister of higher education, has falsely claimed British university degrees. link

— The rouydadnews website says Ahmadinejad has been  putting pressure on the judiciary to drop fraud charges against Ali-Akbar Mehrabian, his pick for Industry Minister, before the vote of confidence session. Mehrabian is charged with stealing someone else’s invention. The website says the original inventor has also reported receiving threatening phone calls to drop his complaint.

There was another snub for Ahmadinejad when he went to pay his respects at the shrine of Imam Khomeini in south Tehran, Parlemannews reports. Protocol dictated that he should have been greeted and shown round by Hassan Khomeini, the Imam’s grandson. But the grandson was a no show “despite the fact that he, as the representative of Imam Khomeini’s family, always welcomes those visiting the shrine”. Along with the rest of his family, Khomeini has not congratulated the President on his second term and boycotted his inauguration.

Hamid Reza Katouzian, a conservative member of the special Majlis committee investigating  post-election events has confirmeds the existence of unmarked graves at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery. He told the ISNA news agency that cemetery staff disclaimed any responsibility for the group burials and he suggested a detailed forensic examination was underway.

No one is allowed by law to reveal the names of the police officers accused of abusing prisoners at the Kahrizak detention centre unless they are convicted, according to MP Farhad Tajari, chairman of the special Majlis committee investigating prisoner abuse. However, in his view, it is alright to overturn the law to name all those who appeared in the mass trials “in order to make the process transparent and to inform the general public”. link

Little is being reported out of Iran on the economic front but a picture is emerging on increasing worker unrest as inflation eats into their money. The Turkish website Haber27 says that, having seen a drop in their real living standards due to inflation, Iranian workers’ representatives have called for an urgent meeting of the Supreme Labour Council to raise the minimum wage a second time. link

— In a discussion on VOA’s Newstalk programme Fereydoun Khavand, economist at the Rene Descartes University in Paris, says protests by blue collar workers are becoming steadily more organisaed. He quotes from a report on a website run by conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli,  head of the Majlis research centre, which paints a picture of the collapse of Iranian manufacturers and warns that “a blue wave, more dangerous than the green wave, could be coming”. link

— We should add to the mix this recent report from Tehran Bureau on rising prices in Iran. link

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the agency’s report released Friday had vindicated Iran’s nuclear programme as a peaceful one. He said Iran would  cooperate with inspections but not beyond its legal obligation. link

— Israel’s foreign ministry attacked the agency’s report for being too soft on Iran. link

Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, in Baghdad for the funeral of the Shia leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, called for a meeting of Iraq’s neighbours to discuss security issues, primarily to defuse a growing row between Iraq and Syria over a wave of bomb attacks against the Baghdad regime. link

PressTV quotes an “informed political source” as denying that a ship carrying arms from North Korea to Iran has been seized by the United Arab Emirates. The source said the report had been “fabricated by Zionist media outlets in an attempt to influence the outcome of the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency [on Iran’s nuclear activities]”. link

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One response to “Saturday August 29 – the daily story

  1. Pingback: Saturday August 29 – the daily story « Iran Election 2009 | Iran Today

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