Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The latest news from Iran - A partial roundup

Iranian Police Beat Up and Arrest 15 Student Activists on University Campus
Report of stoning in Iran | Stoning in Iran confirmed
And some troubling new developments in the case of imprisoned Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, reported by the Woodrow Wilson Center

--Jeff Weintraub
Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog:
July 9, 2007
Iranian Police Beat Up and Arrest 15 Student Activists on University Campus

Fifteen student activists and the mother of one of them were arrested today in Tehran on the eighth anniversary of a bloody attack by police officers and vigilantes on a university dormitory in the Iranian capital. According to the Associated Press, six students were attacked, beaten up, and detained by the police and plainclothes security agents as they staged a sit-in at the main entrance to Amir Kabir University, a leading technology institution. They were protesting the imprisonment since May of eight student leaders from the university, including three editors of student newspapers.

Nine other students and the mother were attacked and detained later today after government agents broke windows and forced their way into the downtown offices of the leading pro-democracy student organization, the Office for Fostering Unity. Today’s arrests were the latest in a simmering confrontation between pro-reform students and the government of Iran’s hardline president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The arrests were part of a repression of dissent that was ushered in by the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, in 2005, and that intensified more recently with the arrest of other student leaders and the imprisonment of prominent Iranian-American scholars on spying charges. —Burton Bollag


July 9, 2007
Report of stoning in Iran

Last month Amnesty International appealed to the head of the Iranian judiciary to stop the execution of two people by public stoning - this for the crime of adultery. Human Rights Watch made the same appeal and reported in an update that the stoning had been halted. A press release from this Iranian website, the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, has now issued a press release saying:
Jafar Kiani was stoned in Aghche-kand, a small village near Takistan, Ghazvin, on Thursday July 5th. His partner, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, could have a similar fate if we do not act now!
According to the Iranian law, the judge who has issued the sentence would have to be present in person to throw the first stone. Some unofficial sources have reported that only a few of the villagers participated in the stoning and the sentence was mostly carried out by the officials and the related service men.

The judiciary officials have so far neither confirmed nor denied the stoning of Jafar Kiani. Silence seems to be the current policy of some judiciary officials, including Hassan Ghasemi, the Head of Judiciary Office in Ghazvin, who has told the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign activists to contact Alireza Jamshidi, the official Iranian judiciary spokesman, for answers to their questions.

The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign is asking all citizens of the world to raise their opposition to stoning and try to save the life of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi from stoning.
See here for the rest.

July 10, 2007
Stoning in Iran confirmed

Further to this post, the United Nations High Commissioner Louise Arbour has issued a press release on the reported stoning in Iran. She says, among other things:
Stoning is in clear violation of international law, which also limits the death penalty to only the most serious, violent crimes.
According to these reports, the Iranian judiciary has confirmed that the execution has now taken place. From the second of them:
Under the punishment of stoning, a male convict is buried up to his waist with his hands tied behind his back, while a female offender is buried up to her neck with her hands also buried.
There have been protests by Amnesty International and the Norwegian Government.

And some troubling new developments in the case of imprisoned Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, reported by the Woodrow Wilson Center:

Woodrow Wilson Center Responds to Iran’s Announcement That It Has Uncovered New Evidence Against Haleh Esfandiari

WASHINGTON —The Wilson Center today rejected as totally without merit the suggestion that Iran has discovered new evidence that Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Center’s Middle East Program, acted against Iran’s national security.

Esfandiari was arrested by the Iranian government on May 8, and has been held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for over two months. She continues to be denied access to her family, her lawyers, the Swiss government, and international organizations like the Red Cross.

“We are deeply disturbed by these new reports from Iran, and by the fact that Haleh remains in Evin prison despite not one shred of truth to any of the charges brought against her,” said Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Wilson Center. “We are gravely concerned about Haleh’s physical and mental state. We have been unable to get anyone in to see Haleh, and to report to us on the state of her health and well-being. The reports we have received are that Haleh has lost weight and that she is not getting the medical attention or the medicines she needs. I ask the Iranian government to end this nightmare for Haleh and the other imprisoned Iranian-Americans. As I have said countless times before, Haleh is a scholar. She is not a spy. Let Haleh go.”

Shaul Bakhash, Haleh’s husband and professor of history at George Mason University, has likewise dismissed the legitimacy of Iran’s recent actions. “It is obvious that the Ministry of Intelligence, lacking any real cause or evidence to keep my wife…is trying to drag things out by claiming continuing ‘investigations,’” he stated in an interview with The Washington Post this morning. “After hundreds of hours of interrogation and so-called investigation, what is left to investigate? The aim of the security authorities is clearly to coerce a false confession; or, out of sheer meanness, they intend to keep Haleh in Evin Prison as long as they can. It is astonishing that Iran's political leaders allow this charade to continue.” (To read the full Post article, go here.)

On July 4, Haleh’s lawyer, Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, spoke to the prosecutor working on Haleh’s case. To date, Ms. Ebadi has been prevented from communicating with her client. When she inquired again about the possibility of meeting with Haleh, the prosecutor responded by saying that Ms. Ebadi must submit a written request to the court. Ms. Ebadi has submitted this request, along with a request for Haleh's release from Evin prison, at least on bail. The court promised an answer by this week, though Ms. Ebadi is not sure whether the court will keep its promise.

For up-to-date information regarding the situation of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, please visit the Wilson Center’s media update center at www.wilsoncenter.org/halehnews. To get involved in the campaign to free Haleh, go to www.freehaleh.org. Media with questions may reach Sharon McCarter at (202) 691-4016 or sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org