Wednesday, October 21, 2009

lATEST REPORTS FROM THE BRIDGE JOURNAL #3


  • Iran bails arrested reporter
Iran freed a foreign reporter on bail nearly four months after he was arrested following the country's disputed presidential election.
Newsweek's Maziar Bahari, who has dual Iranian and Canadian nationality, was released after posting bail of nearly £190,000.
Mr Bahari, whose pregnant wife is living in London, was among more than 100 prisoners put on mass trial as part of the government's attempts to silence opposition protests claiming President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12 re-election was fraudulent.
  • Dr Maleki's Health Deteriorating In Evin Prison
The health of Dr Mohammad Maleki, 76, former chancellor of Tehran University, has deteriorated in the notorious Evin prison. At the time of his arrest on 22 August 2009, Dr Maleki was already in a difficult condition suffering from severe ailments. The appalling prison conditions and lack of proper medical attention coupled with his diabetes and heart problems have caused further health complications.
Dr Maleki was a political prisoner during the Shah’s time, and later spent five years in the medieval dungeons of the mullahs after his arrest in July 1981. He refused to surrender to the mullahs and instead exposed their crimes.
  • Minister of Cultural: Banning the Press is a Normal Process
The Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in Iran, described the banning of press as normal. Syed Mohammad Hosseini in response to a question about the high volume of banned press in Iran stated: “The number is not significant, and just as many new liscences have been granted as those banned.”
The Minister of Culture with regard to the banning of six newspapers in his two months as minister stated: “Only three have been banned due to previous issues, while the concept of banning is pretty normal”.
Mr. Hosseini who was speaking at the closing ceremony of the Traffic and Press event added: “We hope our press friends obey the rules, so they can be treated fairly and with tolerance”. Based on this report, Soleiman Mohammadi from Farhikhteghan newspaper, while accepting his award from the Deputy of politically conscious NAJA, addressed the Minister of Culture and said: “The best gift to journalists is to stop banning the press”.
Reporters without Borders report that at least 35 Iranian journalists have fled Iran in fear for their lives.
  • 5 Year Sentences for Borhan Baghaie and Mehran Koosha, members of student group “Freedon & Equality seeking”
Borhan Baghaie and Mehran Koosha, members of student movement “For Freedom and Equality” have been charged with acting against the regime and each sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by Judge Tavoosi at Branch 5 of the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad. They appeared at this court after several postponements without lawyer representation on1 September 2009.

A significant issue is that the court was held at Branch 5 by Judge Tavoosi, while the case should have been heard at Branch 3 as all the summons and warnings were issued by this branch.

According to the Freedom and Equality newsletter, these two supporters had received several warnings from the Intelligence Ministry following a ceremony at Tehran University on 13 November 2007 at Tehran University. On 29 Januar 2008 Mehran Koosha was summoned to the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad by telephone.

It is imperative to know that Borhan Baghaie and Mehran Koosha were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry in the summer of 2008 at Mashhad. They were released on bail after one month of illegal imprisonment.

  • Basij and Police forces close down Technical College
Anti-government slogans chanted by students at Tehran’s Azad University on Tusday turned into major clashes as Basij forces materialized, spreading through the campus chanting “The blood in our veins is a gift to our…”

The 30-50 Basijis were outnumbered by some 200-300 student protestors, shouting “The blood in our veins is a gift to our people” with the Basisjis reply “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader.” By around 2pm the police took over the University and with the help of university security and the Basij made the students leave. Afternoon classes were cancelled due to the strained atmosphere and the campus was overrun with police force, security and Basijis instead of students.
  • Dozens of Iranian Journalists have fled after the elections
On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders announced that at least 35 journalists have left Iran in fear for their and their families’ lives and that 24 journalists and bloggers are still in prison due to crisis post June elections.
Reza Moini of the Paris based press freedom watchdog stated: “This is the largest migration of journalist’s since the revolution of 1979 (that brought the Islamic regime to power and put our heads under the snow) we must face lots of issues”.
Moini estimates that the number of journalist fled from the time of Ahmadinejad’s speech after the 12 June election to be around 35 but says that the real figure could be up to 45. He said: “They all are accused of activities against national security, of participating in illegal demonstrations or writing propaganda articles against the Islamic regime.” Moini added that 19 journalists and five bloggers remain in custody.

  • Jafar Panahi is Forbidden to Leave The Country
Film Director Jafar Panahi has been banned from leaving the country. On Wednesday night, Mr Panahi was on his way to Paris when his passport was taken away at Emam Khomeini Airport in Tehran.
Mr Panahi was arrested during the post election upheaval with documentary makers Mahnaz Mohammadi and Rokhsare Ghaem Maghami.All three were arrested during the 40th day of mourning Neda Agha Soltan at Beheshte Zahra cemetery, which was also a tribute to others killed post June elections. Mr Panahi is due to travel to India in two weeks to attend a film festival in India as a member of the jury. He was recently Head Judge at the Montreal Film Festival.
  • Haft Tapeh executive committee members sentenced
The Appeals Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ahvaz has issued prison sentences for the labour activists and executive committee members of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company’s trade union.
Ali Nejati, Haft Tapeh trade union President, and three other executive committee members, Fereydoon Nikoofard, Ramezan Alipoor and Jalil Ahmadian, have each been handed down a six months’ custodial sentence as well as a six months’ suspended sentence. Mohammad Heydari Mehr, another executive committee member, has been sentenced to four months in prison together with another eight months suspended. These sentences now have the formal approval of the Appeals Court of Ahvaz.

In a separate trial in Dezful, Ali Nejati and Reza Rakhshan appeared before the Revolutionary Court of Dezful. This court will sentence them at later date.
  • 24 year old commits suicide in iran prison
According to a recent report, a prisoner committed suicide in Ward 1 of Gohardasht Prison in Karaj (west of Tehran), after inhumane pressure and treatment.
The prisoner was 24 year old Reza Rezaee. He had spent over four years in prison. He was only one month away from being released when he committed suicide. The savage treatment he received (other prisoners continue to receive this treatment) made life in prison unbearable for this young man.
On Thursday October 15, 2009, Reza Rezaee committed suicide. He was found by one of his inmates. They transferred Reza to the prison’s health section. Rezaee`s brother was executed in one of the mass-executions two months ago.
The suicide rate at Gohardasht Prison’s Ward 1 is very high, mainly due to the high amount of physical and psychological torture, savage treatment, and inhumane living conditions. This ward is nicknamed, “The Ending Ward.”
The average age of those who commit suicide at the prison is between 18-38 years old.
Activists for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran (AHRDI) condemn the savage and inhumane pressure placed on prisoners that result in suicides. AHRDI asks the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to send a committee to Iranian prisons to monitor what is happening. http://persian2english.wordpress.com/

  • Iran’s Parliament Approves Cutting Energy Subsidies

Iran's parliament has passed a bill that would cut energy subsidies to make the country less vulnerable to international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The bill needs to be approved by the hardline watchdog body, the Guardians Council, before being implemented. The parliament is still discussing other parts of the bill, including cutting food subsidies.

Subsidies have placed a heavy burden on Iran's budget, and the government of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in a disputed presidential vote in June, wants to increase energy and utility prices and compensate low-income families with direct cash payments.

The authorities say hefty fuel subsidies mainly benefit the wealthy, not the poor, but critics of the bill say it would increase inflation, now running at about 13 percent annually after a peak of nearly 30 percent a year ago.

Iran, the word's fifth-largest crude oil exporter, has said it will need an additional $6.5 billion from the budget to cover fuel imports during the fourth quarter this year and the first quarter next year.

Cutting subsidies could eat into demand and lower the need for imports, depending on how far Iran drives up the price. Higher prices could also make smuggling Iranian gasoline less profitable and in the longer term improve vehicle efficiency.

Iran's conservative-dominated parliament in March removed the subsidy reform plan from the country's 2009-10 budget bill.

Ahmadinejad accused parliament then of "violating the constitution".

Iranian motorists have enjoyed some of the cheapest petrol in the world, but the government introduced rationing of heavily subsidized fuel two years ago as part of plans to cut energy subsidies.

Natural gas and electricity consumption are also subsidized by the state. Analysts fear implementation of the bill may outrage ordinary Iranians, who already suffer from high inflation and unemployment.
Iran lacks sufficient refining capacity to meet its domestic fuel needs and has to import up to 40 percent of its gasoline requirements, burdening state coffers.
The United States and its European allies are exploring ways of targeting fuel exports to Iran if it continues to press on with its uranium enrichment work, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs.

Iran has been hit by three rounds of United Nations sanctions over the nuclear program, which the government says is just for energy purposes.

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