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Author Topic:   Iranians reacted with anger at "Political" sentences
posted January 16, 2001 09:49     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
PARIS 15 Jan. (IPS) As the Majles voted Sunday overwhelmingly for the new ministers introduced by President Mohammad Khatami, Iranians and more international organisations reacted in anger to sentences issued by an
Islamic revolutionary court against six out of the 20 persons accused of having participated at a conference the authorities say was organized to discredit the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Akbar Ganji, outspoken investigative journalist was condemned to ten years imprisonment and five years of exile to a remote village in southern Iran, Sa’id Sadr and Khalil Rostamkhani, respectively official translator of the German Embassy in Tehran and interpreter, were handed ten and nine
years and exile period to Zabol, in Sistan and Baluchistan, Ali Afshari, a student’s leader, to five years, Ezzatollah Sahabi, veteran political activist and journalist to four and half, Mrs. Mehranguiz Kar, a lawyer
and human rights activist and Mrs. Shahla Lahiji, an independent publisher, to four years jail term each.

Mrs. Kar and Mrs. Lahiji were arrested and jailed one month immediately after their return from Berlin last April. Mrs. Kar is suffering from breast cancer and needs urgent medical treatment outside Iran.

What surprised and baffled observes and experts was why the court acquitted six others who had participated at the same meeting and why Mr. Sadr and Mr. Rostamkhani received such a heavy penalty even though they were not present at the conference.

In his long speech at the Majles introducing his new ministers, Mr. Khatami said nothing on the controversial sentences, nor did the press, obeying probably to a news black out imposed by Mr. Abbasali Alizadeh, Head of Tehran Judiciary, warning the edia not to comment the rulings before the decision by the Appeal Court, due to meet in 18 days on request from lawyers for the defendants.

However, a closer look at the condemnations explains the reason behind the sentences:

Mr. Ganji is the journalist who has exposed publicly the nefarious role played by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, his notorious Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian and some
high-ranking clerics closely associated with the leader in the murder of more than hundred Iranian dissidents insie and outside the country;

Mr. Sadr and Mr. Rostamkhani, both jailed for communist activities, are considered as atheists and subject to be eliminated according to Islamic laws;

Mr. Afshari is an indefatigable critic of the conservatives how has dared to call for referendum on the future of Iranian system;

Mr. Sahhabi is a veteran activist associated with the religious-nationalist movement that is much hated by orthodox clerics, including the leader himself;

Mrs. Kar is accused of both questioning basic Islamic canons by objecting to the compulsory wearing of hejab, or Islamic dress, by Iranian women as well as being a human rights activist;

Mrs. Lahiji is reputed to be a feminist.

Nevertheless, several personalities, students and men of the street questioned randomly by Iran Press Service expressed anger at the condemnations, confirming the negative impact it produced on the public.

Dr. Karim Lahiji, vice-president of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues described the sentences as "utterly illegal", observing that participating at a conference the authorities do not like could not constitute an offence bearing such harsh condemnations.

Mr. Changuiz Pahlavan and Kazem Kordavani, two participants at the Berlin conference that are now living in Germany and France protested to the sentences, observing that the trial was politically motivated and aimed at stopping at once the reform process, cutting ties between the elite and intellectual communities with the public and pushing Iran further into isolation.

"I can say I’m flattened, dismayed at Mr. Khatami and his silence", said a Tehran university student, adding that that few people are aware of the events at the Berlin conference.

"What we have heard is not sufficient to hand such terrible sentences to intellectuals", he said.

"The sentences may at first look like hurting both the reform process and President Khatami, but at the end, they would harm more the conservatives, the orthodox clerics, the religion, the Islamic Republic and above all,
the very person of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the man behind all the repressions, closure of the independent press, jailing of influential journalists and politicians", a college teacher commented.

"The abusive condemnations would encourage more Iranians, particularly the young ones and the brains, to leave Iran, put a brake on already hard to come foreign investments and darkens relations between the Islamic Republic with the European Community", speculated another University

Actually, German foreign Minister Joschka Fischer summoned Sunday the Iranian ambassador in Berlin for "urgent consultation" concerning the situation back in Tehran.

The sentences handed to some of the accused were decided at the "Crisis Committee", a body created almost a year ago by Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani in the aftermath of his epic defeat at the Legislative elections.

Under the chairmanship of the leader, the Committee is aimed at "neutralizing threats" the reform process presents for the survival of the theocratic system by eliminating main reformist personalities, according to informed sources.

Considered as the "architect" of the landslide victory of the reformists in the Majles elections, Mr. Sa’id Hajjarian, the source behind Mr. Ganji’s daring revelations, miraculously escaped an assassination attempt
on his live on 12 March;

On 10 of April, Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the outstanding reformist journalist and Editor of several independent newspapers was arrested;

On 16 of the same month, the revolutionary guard, in an unprecedented move, issued a stern warning against reformists, heralding a coming coup;

Three days later the leader-controlled Radio and Television broadcast carefully selected shots from the Berlin conference showing a woman undressing, a man dancing completely nude robbing against parts of his body a poster of Ayatollah Khameneh'i and another woman dancing sexy Iranian dances.

The deliberate broadcast prompted Mr. Khameneh'i to order the Islamic Judiciary he himself controls to shut down all reformist and independent titles and arrest all those who attended the Berlin meeting;

After a period of relative calm, special units of "Enforcing virtues and preventing sins" were seen against patrolling the streets, raiding houses in search for night parties, arresting women not respecting the hejab and flogging party goers, as it happened on the new year eve in Tehran where several women found in a party were given 80 lashes.

"The goal is to foment tensions enough for justifying a state of emergency, closing down the Majles and postponing next presidential
elections the conservatives are certain to lose again", said one source close to the President.

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