Thursday, 31 January 2013

Iran Live Coverage: Imprisoned Journalists, Elections, & the BBC

Journalists Arrested Last Weekend0634 GMT: The Battle Within. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has declared illegal the appointment of controversial Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi as head of the Social Security Funds.

Larijani ordered Mortazavi, who was named head of the Funds a year ago, to appear before Parliament on Sunday.

Iranian courts have ruled that Mortazavi, accused of involvement in the abuse and deaths of post-election protesters in summer 2009, must step down, but the Ahmadinejad Government has carried out a series of bureaucratic manoeuvres to defy the decisions.

0624 GMT: Press Watch. A journalist at the reformist daily Etemaad, one of five publications raided last weekend, describes the arrest of three journalists:

[The security agents] arrived sometime after 7am. They rounded up into the conference hall, and by request of [Elyas] Hazrati, the managing director of the daily, they took Sassan Aghaei, Nasrin Takhayori, and Javad Dalirei to Hazrati's office. Hazrati had asked the agents to dial the judge who had issued the warrants so that he could talk to him and arrange to appear the next morning. That took a while, but they couldn't find the judge.

The interactions were very polite. They didn't say much; we didn't know who they were and what they wanted, or why they had come. We were all dazed. They announced names when they stepped in: "These are the ones we want."

The source said the three seized journalists "were solid and strong. I was so upset that I can't really recall much. I think I wouldn't be like this if they had detained myself."

He addded, "To watch your friends being taken away, it is devastating."

Another journalist describes the current fear, "We have to stay up all night....They could raid our homes."

0610 GMT: Press Watch. Wednesday's messages from the Iranian media about 15 journalists detained since Saturday were confusing. Mehr said some had been released, while Fars claimed others had been seized.

The overall impression, however, was clear: 4 1/2 months before June's Presidential ballot, the regime is showing nerves about a "free election" and whether it can establish the vote as legitimate and well-supported.

This, of course, is not stated by officials. Instead, the Ministry of Intelligence pulled out the rationale that the arrested journalists were part of a network which had established contacts with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The Ministry said the "multi-layers, widespread" network had been developed with "experiences...gained during the unrest that followed the 2009 Presidential election. It was tracked by intelligence officers for months, until sufficient evidence had been collected for legal action.

The Ministry said "a number of other people connected with the BBC would be arrested or summoned for questioning or some of the arrestees would be released".

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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