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April 2000, Week 3
|Tehran Municipal Council Protests Arrest of Reformist Councilor||Apr. 18|
|Iran Fencers Leave U.S. in Fingerprint Row||Apr. 17|
|Iranian Jews Hope for Better Times||Apr. 16|
|Iran Spurns Latest U.S. Sanctions||Apr. 15|
Tehran Municipal Council Protests Arrest of Reformist Councilor
TEHRAN - XINHUA - The municipal council of the Iranian capital city Tehran Monday lodged a strong protest against the arrest of its reformist member Ahmad Hakimipour who was on charge of having a hand in an abortive assassination. |
Issuing a statement, the council said that following the assassination attempt against the life the council's deputy chairman Saeed Hajjarian on February 12, moves are under way to divert the issue from its main course.
"The agents of threat who are known to the public are free while Hakimipour who had saved the life of Hajjarian through devotion and self-sacrifice has been arrested," said the statement quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency. The council also called on officials concerned to give response to the concern of the council and the public on the issue as soon as possible.
Hakimipour was arrested by the conservative revolutionary court on Friday on the confessions of other people arrested for the assassination attempt against Hajjarian, a senior advisor to the moderate President Mohammad Khatami. Hajjarian, who was also former deputy intelligence minister, was seriously wounded in a shooting in front of the council hall in downtown Tehran and Hakimipour rushed him to a nearby hospital. Hajjarian recovered his consciousness in recent weeks following a long coma.
Reports said that Hakimipour became a suspect in the assassination case because a letter handed over to Hajjarian, which prepared the ground for the assassination attempt, was signed by Hakimipour. The conservative Judiciary said on Sunday that Hakimipour was detained in Zajan province, central Iran, after he refused to appear in court to give explanations and was transferred to Tehran for trial. However, some reformist groups and parties said that bringing Hakimipour's letter to the assassination scene was a well-designed plot by certain people to crack down on the reformists, who won an overwhelming victory in February key parliamentary elections. Newspapers closed to the powerful conservatives, who dominate most of the country's sensitive organs, urged the authorities to find the relations between Hakimipour and other suspects.
Widespread rumors here had claimed that the conservatives were behind the assassination attempt against Hajjarian because he played an important role in the reformists' victory, a result which humiliated the conservatives.
Iran Fencers Leave U.S. in Fingerprint Row
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's junior fencing team pulled out of the world championships in the United States and were on their way home after immigration officials sought to fingerprint all team members, the official IRNA news agency said on Sunday.
"The public relations department at the physical education organisation said Iran's youth and junior fencing team refused to take part...to protest a move by Chicago airport officials to have them fingerprinted," IRNA said. |
It said the 12-member team then left for Turkey, en route back to Iran. They were expected to arrive home on Monday. Iran has bristled at enforcement against sports teams, scholars and clerical delegations of an FBI policy to fingerprint arriving nationals from Iran, Sudan and other countries accused by Washington of links to terrorism -- charges Iran denies.
Last January's soccer rematch between Iran and the United States only went forward after U.S. officials agreed to waive the fingerprinting. The match, which followed Iran's 1998 win over the United States in the World Cup in France, marked the first time America had hosted Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The politically-charged World Cup match, for which both teams were later given the FIFA Fair Play Award, was the first top-level sporting contact between the countries since they broke diplomatic ties after the revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Iranian Jews Hope for Better Times
By Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
SHIRAZ, Iran - At dusk, outside a synagogue in this ancient Iranian city where Jews have lived for more than 2,000 years, the sound of Jewish prayer mingled with the singsong call wafting from nearby mosques, beckoning Muslims for worship.
As worshippers trickled into the Del Rahim synagogue on Friday just before the start of the Sabbath, hundreds of black-clad Muslim men walked in a procession outside, beating their chests in a Shiite mourning ceremony. Jews and Muslims alike were greeted by the fragrance from orange blossoms growing in the large garden of the synagogue, their branches hanging over the narrow street.
Iran has the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel about 25,000 people even after most of its members left because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But Jewish leaders now fear a new exodus could be sparked by the trial of 13 Jews charged with spying for Israel and the United States.
The closed-door trial began Thursday in Shiraz and has been adjourned to May 1.
"This case has undermined the confidence of our community, and I hope it will be resolved as soon as possible, because Jews have lived here for more than 2,000 years without any problems," said Haroun Yashayaii, head of Iran's Jewish Society.
About 80,000 Jews lived in Iran just before the revolution. But the Shiite clergy that took power in 1979, ousting the pro-U.S. shah, considered Israel their enemy. Jews immediately became suspect. Many fled to the United States, Europe and Israel.
Still, thousands remain, and only about a dozen families have left since the Jews' arrest last year.
Jews, who are mentioned in Islam's holy book, the Koran, are respected by Muslims as "people of the book," but face many restrictions. They are not given senior government jobs, they cannot obtain passports automatically and, like other Iranians, are banned from traveling to Israel.
Socially, however, they face few problems and little overt discrimination.
Shiraz boasts 16 synagogues for a Jewish population of 6,000, down from 15,000 before the revolution.
In the Jewish quarter, which lies inside a main commercial district, Jews wearing skullcaps stroll the streets. Nearly half the shops remain closed on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. And three butcher shops sell only kosher meat.
Despite the religious tolerance that surrounds them, the Jews of Shiraz are weighed by the uncertainty about the fate of the 13 loved ones who face long prison terms or even the death penalty if convicted. Two Jews were hanged in Iran on similar charges in 1997.
At a makeshift bakery inside a house, things are just not the same for volunteers baking matzo, the unleavened bread that is eaten during the weeklong Passover holiday that begins Wednesday.
It's the second year running that Farhad Saleh, who had long supervised the baking for the community, is not there. He is among the accused.
"But I am sure he will be among us soon," Bahram Ayinah, 50, said as he worked the dough. "I'm certain that the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose flag we live under, will forgive whatever any of them may have done, and acquit them."
Saleh is one of 10 suspects in jail. Three have been out on bail since February.
The defendants include merchants, religious teachers, two government officials and an 18-year-old boy, Jewish leaders say. Eleven are from Shiraz, two from nearby Isfahan.
The case has attracted attention from the United States, Israel and several European countries. Hundreds of people, mostly of Iranian descent, held a vigil Sunday in Los Angeles.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi on Sunday accused unnamed countries of "meddling" in the case and said Iran's judiciary is "totally independent."
Iran Spurns Latest U.S. Sanctions
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday that it would not be affected by new U.S. sanctions on its defence and aerospace industries and denied U.S. allegations of missile proliferation.
"What Mr. (U.S. State Department spokesman James) Rubin said is immaterial to Iran because Iranian defence industry has no cooperation with American companies," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. |
"We think such statements are meant to mislead public opinion from the main threat in the region - which is Israel," he told Iran's state radio. Rubin had said on Friday that the United States had imposed sanctions on five "entities" in North Korea and Iran for alleged missile proliferation. The Iranian entities affected were the defence ministry, aerospace industries organisation and two industrial groups.
Rubin said that Washington would deny import licenses to the sanctioned entities for at least two years. Asefi denied that Iran was engaged in missile technology transfers, or had any hostile intentions: "Iran's missile programme is merely a deterrent (force). Iran develops its technology from internal resources within the framework of national interests," he said.
The sanctions are largely symbolic given limited economic ties between Iran and the United States. They also are not expected to directly affect the recent U.S. decision to allow Iranian exports of carpets, pistachios and caviar.