Monday August 31 – the daily story

The main headlines:

Mehdi Hashemi, the son of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, has left Iran for Britain, PressTV reports. A “source close to the family”, however, says the visit to London “is not linked with the rumours over the possibility of his arrest on charges of orchestrating and engineering post-election unrest.” After they were briefly detained during the post-election unrest, Hashemi and his sister Fayezeh were barred from leaving the country, but the ban was recently lifted. His trip to a country the hardliners believe is directly responsible for Iran’s troubles, however, is almost certain to be picked on in their assault on the ayatollah. link

— Earlier reports had quoted a post on Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s website insisting that, while his children are certainly outspoken, they have not entered politics. “It is a blessing or a curse that they are very outspoken. They do not believe in hypocrisy or covert actions; they present themselves for what they are.” link

Judicial head Ayatollah Larijani has apparently been spelling out some new facts of life to the MPs investigating prisoner abuse. In a meeting today with the Majlis committee investigating prison conditions , which some accuse of attempting to gloss over the situation, Larijani said those responsible for abuses after the election had to be dealt with legally but decisively. Committee member Kazem Jalali said Larijani “called for a determined approach in dealing with those who were key elements in the post-vote events which besmirched the reputation of the establishment.” link, link

— Larijani has also ordered the three-man committee he set up to look into the post-election turmoil to specifically examine the allegations of sexual abuse in prisons made by Mehdi Karoubi. link

—  ParlemanNews reports that the Legal Medicine Organisation of Iran, which carries out forensic medical investigations for the judiciary, announced today that the causes of the death of Mohsen Ruholamini, who died in Kahrizak prison after being arrested during post-election protests, were physical stress, poor prison conditions, several blows to the body and being hit by a hard object. It “strongly rejected” official  claims that meningitis played any role in his death. The death of Ruholamini, the son of the head of the Pasteur Institute in Tehran and Mohsen Rezai’s election campaign adviser,  was the catalyst for the explosion of official recriminations over post-election activities because it was regarded as the killing of “one of their own”.

— In his speech Sunday Ayatollah Khamenei made a pledge to Ruholamini’s father that justice would be done. link

— Analysts are divided on the true meaning of the elevation of Said Mortazavi, the former Tehran Prosecutor-General, to national Deputy Prosecutor-General. Some have seen it as clear evidence that the regime does not intend to change its ways, but others, including two prominent Iranian trial lawyers, say in fact he will be one of six deputies who have no powers  to arrest or hold trials and will be under the watchful eye of those actually running the show. link

— A sign of the growing pressures on Ayatollah Khamenei to halt the prison abuses was a report that he personally met the family of one of the victims from Mashad. Tabnak newspaper said Haj Mohammad-Taqi Ghanian, whose son Mostafa died in the unrest, was considered a highly respected elder in Mashad and an acquaintance of the Supreme Leader. The report said Khamenei expressed his deep regrets over the death. Ghanian said he had intended to tell Khamenei  the truth about what was happening, but found out that he was already “well aware of the post-election developments and the atrocities committed”. The report added that a special committee appointed by Khamenei has repeatedly reported to him on meetings it has had with families of the post-election victims.

— Ebrahim Raisi, Larijani’s new deputy, has said defendants charged with offenses during the post-election unrest should receive fair trials. “In addressing the post-election offences, the Judiciary has a duty to try (people) fairly, and all those who committed an offence, rioted, damaged public property… and those who violated the defendants’ rights should receive fair trials.” link

— The central council of Assembly of Combatant Clergymen has urged Ayatollah Larijani to issue a decisive order to accelerate legal proceedings and stop the illegal actions.

A number of key figures were released today according to ParlemanNews including Hamzeh Ghalebi, head of the student committee during Moussavi’s election campaign, was arrested more than two months ago and reportedly held in solitary confinement for most of the time since. Serious concerns were expressed for his health to the point that it was feared he was suffering from amnesia. He was taken to one of the show trials but no charge was laid against him and he never made a “confession” despite great pressure to do so. Also freed was Dr Mohammad Zabihi, a Moussavi ally described as Chancellor of Qom University (although different sites name different institutions). He was released on bail although his son is still in detention. The new Head of the Judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, is said to lecture at his university (whichever it is). Another to be released was Hojatoleslam Soleimani, a member of the Assembly of Qom Seminary Teachers.

A new fatwa from Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has declared that if the legitimacy of a government is not validated by the people’s free choice it will lack both legitimacy and acceptance, the mowjcamp website reports. In another clear attack on Ayatollah Khamenei, he added that there is no precedent in history for a Shia Imam to apply force to gain power or govern.

— Grand Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani  echoed Montazeri’s words on the government’s legitimacy and told the Interior Ministry it was its duty to issue permits to anyone wishing to hold a peaceful protest, according to ParlemanNews. Failure to do so, he said, was illegal. In an implied dig at Ayatollah Khamenei, he added that while the Supreme Leader had the final word on those organisations under him, it was the Assembly of Experts that had the final word about the Supreme Leader.

— Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi attacked those fanning the flames of disputes in Iran and called for an end to the current political turmoil. He urged the public to heed “people who invite people to peace and want an end to these disputes”. Some observers see this as a dig at President Ahmadinejad over his Friday prayers speech calling for the arrest of reformist leaders.. link

More on the threatened “blue collar wave”: The Revolutionary Road website reports a strike by workers at the railway vehicle manufacturer Wagonpars who have not been paid “for months”. A group of workers from Iran’s biggest car manufacturer, Iran Khodro, have expressed their  solidarity, although it is unclear if they too have taken any industrial action.  link

The Majlis debate continued to be “heated” according to PressTV which focused on a speech by Heydar Moslehi, the proposed new Intelliogence Minister, in which he pledged an aggressive approach to fighting the “software and hardware attacks” of the enemy in their “soft war”.  “We will use updated information and cutting-edge technology to protect the Revolution and the system,” he said. No, he didn’t mention Nokia. link

Videos have been posted on YouTube of protests last night outside the Amir Almomenin Mosque in Tehran where reformist leaders Moussavi, Khatami and Karoubi were due to have iftar with families of detainees. However, under pressure from the security forces, the three stayed away. link

— More videos have been posted of yet another protest at Friday’s football match at Azadi stadium.  link

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, spokesman of the Association for the Defence of Press Freedom, has been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry for the second time and ordered not to give any interviews. He has been accused in the hardline Kayhan newspaper of being funded by the Americans and of having played a key role in the 1999 student uprising. link

French President Sarkozy said today Iranians deserved better than their current leaders. “I want to say how much we admire the courage of the Iranian people.” He was speaking in Berlin where the five permanent members of the UN Security Council meet Wednesday to discuss Ira’s nuclear programme. link

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney hinted in an interview with Fox News that in the last days of the Bush administration he pushed for a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapons programme but was isolated among Bush’s advisers. link

Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi,  says a protest note has been handed to Iran warning that the way the Iranian media has “fabricated” coverage of Sanaa’s battle against Shia rebels could have a negative impact on relations between the two countries. link

Family members of the three Americans still being held a month after their arrest for illegally crossing from Iraq called for their safe return at a press conference today. link

Iran will start laying the pipeline to supply gas to Pakistan next year, with a target opening date of 2013, it was agreed  in talks today. link

Saboteurs have got to Wikipedia, and specifically the entry for Sadeq Larijani. Under the heading “Judiciary system” it states: “Shortly after his appointment, he promoted Saeed Mortazavi  to the post of Vice Persecutor General of Iran. Mortazavi was Persecutor General of Tehran for more than seven years during which he was involved in murdering and torturing a number of Iranian civilians and activists.” Encyclopedia Britannica it aint. link

Iran has the highest rate of cosmetic surgery “nose jobs” in the world and it has now become an epidemic among Iranians aged 18 and under, the International Rhinology Congress in Tehran heard. link

The Neo-Resistance blog has discovered an intriguing map on the balatarin news website that purports to show what Iran would look like after Ahmadinejad’s fifth term in office. There’s not much of it left! Neo-Resistance, full-size map

And finally: A brand new news agency has been established to cover Iranian events – OPressTV. For the latest news in pictures from this brave new venture click the link.

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