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May 2000, Week 3
|One of few Remaining Reformist Papers Closed||May 18|
|U.S. Will Oppose World Bank Loans to Iran||May 17|
|Iran Council Sets Vote Announcement||May 17|
|Jewish Defendant: It Wasn't Espionage||May 16|
|Sentence in Iran Reformist Attack||May 15|
One of few Remaining Reformist Papers Closed
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian authorities on Tuesday shut down a major reformist newspaper, one of the few that had survived a hard-line crackdown on the media.
The crackdown, part of a backlash by hard-line clergy against the liberal reforms of President Mohammad Khatami, has shut down 17 other newspapers and magazines in the last three weeks. |
The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a Tehran Justice Department announcement as saying that the Hammihan daily was "temporarily closed." It did not say how long the ban was for. It said the Hammihan managing director, former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, was charged with 17 counts of press law violations including publishing false reports on the country's judiciary, parliament, the Information Ministry and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the agency said.
"We cannot understand the logic of this verdict. It seems they have decided to close down the few remaining independent newspapers in Iran," newspaper editor Mahmoud Sadri told The Associated Press. IRNA said Karbaschi confirmed that he had received an order to close the newspaper. It quoted him as saying this was the first "complaint" he had received since the paper began in February.
The paper also was accused of "creating division among the officials of the system," IRNA said. Also Tuesday, the owner and managing editor of Bahar, a pro-reform paper, was summoned to court for allegedly spreading lies and dissent, IRNA said. It said the complaint was filed by the prosecutor but did not say when Saeed Pourazizi would appear in court. The newspaper began publishing May 8.
Pourazizi is head of news and information in President Khatami's office and one of the president's close confidants. Hard-liners in the ruling clergy have tried to limit the cultural, political and social reforms of Khatami, a moderate cleric who took office in 1997.
Conservative clergymen say the reforms are turning the country away from the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that installed a theocratic rule in Iran after ousting the reviled pro-western Shah. The hard-liners used their powers not only to shut down the pro-Khatami papers but also to arrest top liberal activists and to annul some of the reformists' victories in the February elections for the 290-seat parliament, or Majlis.
The hard-liners control the judiciary, the armed forces and the state-run media, and are backed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the final authority in Iran. Karbaschi started Hammihan newspaper after he was pardoned and released from prison in January. A Khatami ally, Karbaschi was sentenced to prison last year on charges of graft that were viewed as politically motivated.
The newspaper had become increasingly bold in supporting the reformist camp over the last two weeks after most reformist papers were shut down.
U.S. Will Oppose World Bank Loans to Iran
New York Times|
ASHINGTON, May 16 -- The Clinton administration will oppose the first World Bank loans offered to Iran in seven years, even though Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright declared some easing of sanctions recently, officials said today.
The $232 million loans for a sewage system in Teheran and basic health facilities are set for a vote on Thursday at the bank, and will likely be approved by the 24-member executive board, despite lobbying by the United States of its European allies, American officials said.
The United States, which has successfully delayed the vote twice, is opposing the loan on two grounds.
First, the law mandates that the United States vote against World Bank loans to countries on the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism; Iran is one of seven countries on the list.
Second, administration officials said that awarding Iran with World Bank loans was inappropriate at a time when the government in Tehran was holding a closed-door espionage trial of 13 Jewish men. One of the men was shown by the government on television earlier this month publicly confessing to the charges without his attorney.
How to deal with the issue of the loans -- which advocates see as assisting ordinary Iranians -- represents the tricky nature of the administration's efforts to improve relations with Iran.
In a speech in March, Dr. Albright said that the United States did not want to penalize "innocent civilians" in Iran with its sanctions, and that Washington must bear some of the responsibility for the poor state of relations between Iran and the United States.
Today, administration officials said this did not mean unfettered progress in improving those relations. "We think it is inappropriate to grant the loan while the trial is going on," a senior official said. "We think it is best to postpone the loan."
Efforts continued today to persuade the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, to postpone the vote for a third time, administration officials said. But bank officials said the vote was set to go ahead.
In some small steps last year, President Clinton eased economic sanctions against Iran by allowing the export of food, medicine and medical equipment, and authorizing the sale of spare parts for Iran's aging Boeing passenger aircraft.
One of the purposes of the new policies, Dr. Albright said, was to show the Iranian people that the "the United States bears them no ill will."
In the last week, Dr. Albright has tried to persuade European foreign ministers to vote against the loan or seek a delay -- in particular the French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, and the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who were in Washington, her aides said.
The British government supports the loans, believing they are designed to alleviate poverty and finance fiscally sound projects, officials said.
Iran Council Sets Vote Announcement
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran -An Iranian supervisory council that has threatened to annul election results in the capital said Sunday it would announce the results of its recount this week.
The Guardian Council "decided to announce its decision Thursday after recounting is completed in order to put an end to the waiting of the noble people," council head Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said on Tehran radio.
The Feb. 18 poll results must be endorsed by the 12-person council, which is dominated by hard-liners opposed to the reform movement led by President Mohammad Khatami. Hard-liners have the backing of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Initial results showed reformers winning 29 of the 30 seats in Tehran. But the Guardian Council alleged widespread fraud, an allegation denied by the Interior Ministry, which backs the reformers and has jointly supervised the elections with the council.
Most of the results outside the capital have been endorsed.
In February elections, reformers collected about 120 seats, and won another 47 to 52 in run-off elections last month giving them a majority in the 290-seat parliament for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The run-off results have not yet been endorsed.
Hard-liners control no more than 70 seats in the parliament.
The council has annulled 12 reformist victories outside Tehran and given three of those seats to hard-liners.
Tehran was considered the reformers' top prize, as many of their leaders won seats there.
On Saturday, the Islamic Students Association, one of Iran's largest pro-democracy student groups, warned it would organize street demonstrations if the Tehran results were annulled.
Since elections, the hardline clergy has used its dominance of the judiciary to close 16 pro-reform newspapers. The hard-liners have the backing of Iran's supreme leader.
Meanwhile Sunday, Khatami briefly checked in to a Tehran hospital for heart tests, which indicated no troubles, Tehran radio reported.
The 57-year-old president had "developed minor cardiac problems" last week, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said, quoting a statement from the president's office. It did not elaborate.
Tehran radio said Khatami left Sharaiti hospital soon after the angiogram, a standard cardiac X-ray. He was declared "in perfect health" IRNA reported.
Khatami has appeared healthy since taking office in 1997.
Jewish Defendant: It Wasn't Espionage
By Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
SHIRAZ, Iran -One of 10 Jewish defendants on trial for spying in Iran testified Wednesday that he had collected military information and photographs for the Israeli state, but did not consider his actions espionage, a defense spokesman said.
It was not immediately clear if Javid Bent-Yacoub's admission amounted to a guilty plea or not.
Of the 10 on trial now, eight other defendants have already pleaded guilty, while one, Farzad Kashi, has denied the charges. Three more defendants have been free on bail since February, and lawyers said their charges were likely to be less serious.
The trial in the southern city of Shiraz has generated international concern, and the defense has questioned the fairness of the closed-door, no-jury revolutionary court, where Judge Sadeq Nourani is also the prosecutor.
Before Wednesday's hearing for shop owner Bent-Yacoub began, defense lawyer and spokesman Esmail Naseri told The Associated Press the indictment against the 10 defendants "so far shows that there should be no death sentence because the charges do not carry that penalty."
The penalty for espionage is a long prison term, Naseri said, while the death penalty would apply only to charges of "moharebeh," or fighting against God and the state.
Provincial judiciary chief Hossein Ali Amiri also told reporters Wednesday that "so far, the charge of moharebeh has not been brought against any of the defendants."
After the hearing, Amiri said Bent-Yacoub confessed he had traveled to Israel for 45 days in 1993, where he had met with an agent of Mossad, Israel's main external security agency. He said Bent-Yacoub was recruited by his brother, who family members said is living in Israel.
Bent-Yacoub, 42, admitted he was responsible for the spy network's finances, and received tens of thousands of dollars from Israel for the group's activities, Amiri said. But the defendant said he thought he was a member of a religious group, not a spy network.
"Bent-Yacoub told the court he had helped collect photographs of military facilities," and also admitted to illegally possessing arms, Naseri said. "He said he knew he was committing a crime, but not espionage."
The defense lawyers would not accept the charge of espionage without seeing the photographs and other information that Bent-Yacoub allegedly helped collect, he said.
Lawyers have complained they have not been shown all the evidence. Israel has denied that any of the defendants were its spies. The trial was adjourned until next Wednesday.
Amiri said that one of the group's tasks was to collect information for sabotage operations, and that the defendants were studying ways to poison the water supply of Shiraz if ordered.
Iranian state television has broadcast the confessions of two defendants, who said they were trained and paid by Israel to gather secrets in Iran.
About a dozen relatives rushed to hug Bent-Yacoub when he was briefly allowed outside the courthouse. His teen-age daughter and son showered him with kisses, while his wife, Farangeez, held his hand.
"This is the first time in 16 months that we have been able to touch him and hug him, and the children are very happy," his wife said. Dorrit, his 9-year-old daughter, pulled a small bag of coffee from her pocket and beamed with happiness when Amiri said he would allow Bent-Yacoub to take it.
The trial is closed to the public because it involves issues of national security, officials said.
Sentence in Iran Reformist Attack
By Ali Akbar Dareini|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - An Iranian court sentenced five men to jail terms of up to 15 years for their part in a March assassination attempt on a leading reformist, state-run Tehran television reported Wednesday.
"The main suspect, Saeed Asghar, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in Isfahan prison for acting against Iran's national security," the television quoted a statement by the Tehran Justice Administration as saying.
The broadcast said Asghar's accomplices were each sentenced to prison terms of three to 10 years on charges ranging from complicity against national security to illegal possession of arms. The court acquitted three other suspects, the television said.
Saeed Hajjarian, a city councilor, journalist and a close aide of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, was gravely wounded by a gunshot in the head fired from close range. He was discharged from the hospital recently, but cannot walk.
The suspects had appeared relaxed and confident during their trial in a revolutionary court in Tehran and Asghar, the main suspect, had said he had gone to the movies after shooting Hajjarian.
Hajjarian is widely believed to have been the victim of an intense power struggle between Khatami's reformist allies and hard-liners desperate to cling to power despite their unpopularity. Reformers have accused the hard-liners of ordering the attack on Hajjarian.
The Islamic Iran Participation front, the nation's largest reformist party, criticized the trial, alleging that the court had made no effort to unearth the masterminds behind the shooting.
Considering the charge of endangering national security, the sentences appeared to be light. It was also curious why Asghar had been ordered to serve his jail term in Isfahan instead of Tehran's Evin prison, where many reformist allies of Khatami have been jailed over the past two years for their outspoken opposition of the hard-liners.
The judiciary is controlled by the hard-liners and it has been blatantly harsh on reformists and nearly blind to offences committed against them.