Thursday, April 30, 2009

AI: May Day Statement on Iran

Iran: end repression of independent trade unions
AI Index: MDE 13/040/2009 (30 April 2009)

Marking International Workers' Day on May Day 2009, Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to end the repression of trade unionists by immediately releasing those imprisoned for their trade union work; dropping charges against others currently facing trial for similar reasons, and ending other repressive measures which marginalize trade unions and their members. The organization also warns against measures aiming at prohibiting peaceful gatherings on May Day in Tehran.

In particular, Mansour Ossanlu and Ebrahim Madadi, leading members of the Syndicate of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed), who are serving five and three year prison sentences respectively, in connection with their trade union activities, should be released immediately and unconditionally. Both are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for their peaceful advocacy of workers' rights. Mansour Ossanlu, like many other prisoners in Iran, has also been denied medical care while in custody, which has threatened his health.

Amnesty International is also urging the authorities to review urgently the cases of five leaders of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company (HTSCC) Trade Union, with a view to overturning their convictions and sentences. In April 2009, the five were sentenced to between four to six months' imprisonment for "propaganda against the system" in connection with interviews they gave on May Day 2008 to foreign journalists about working conditions at the plant, with an additional six to eight months' imprisonment suspended for five years. They are, however, not currently detained, pending appeals against their convictions and sentences.

Amnesty International also urges the Iranian authorities to allow peaceful gatherings by workers on May Day. Alireza Saghafy, a member of the Centre for Workers' Rights in Iran, was detained for five hours on 28 April 2009, during which he was reportedly told to try to prevent a May Day rally planned for Tehran. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a State Party.

Read the complete statement here ...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

U.S. firms at Iran energy show

From World Tribune.

U.S. firms show up this year at Iran energy show
April 23, 2009
(photo: Iranian First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi at the energy show)

NICOSIA — European and U.S. contractors attended Iran's annual energy exhibition in Teheran, an event regarded as a barometer of Western intentions toward the nation's radical regime.

Industry sources said a range of Western energy companies, including France's Total, have been attending the Iran Oil & Gas show 2009, which began on April 21. The five-day show, held in Teheran, is being watched for clues of Western interest in developing Iran's energy sector during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The annual show, which has drawn what organizers termed a record turnout of 450 foreign companies, was said to contain 25 percent greater participation than in 2008, including five unidentified U.S. firms.

"This makes it the biggest event of its kind in the Middle East and provides a first-class platform of opportunities for those interested to achieve lucrative business contacts within the extensive development plans announced by the Iranian Petroleum Ministry," organizers said in a statement.

Read the complete article at source here ...

Related article:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Saberi ... and all the others!

Good old, better days?

Roxana Saberi's case has by now become internationally known: the photogenic, as-of-today-32-year old Iranian-American journalist, who for the six years before her arrest in January had been freelancing in Iran, reporting for different agencies including the BBC and the NPR. She was arrested in January, and after a closed-door summary 'trial', was sentenced to eight years in prison on espionage charges. As of Saturday, April 25, 2009, Saberi's father has reported that her daughter has been on hunger strike for five days, to protest her imprisonment and the charges brought against her.

The Iranian President Ahmadinejad along with the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, have since made public announcements, urging the relevant courts to play fair with Ms. Saberi's case and to allow her all the legal means available to her by law, including the chance for a fair defense.

Iran's Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi announced recently that she would represent Saberi in her appeal of the espionage charges and the eight-year sentence.

As reported by Inter Press Service, "The former beauty queen – Saberi was the 1997 "Miss North Dakota" – was arrested in January and initially accused of trying to buy wine, later of lacking valid press credentials, and finally with espionage," (Int'l. Support Mounts for Jailed Journalist, IPS/April 21, 2009). This summary of the rapid evolution of her alleged 'crime' should be enough to evince the spurious nature of the charges brought against her, and is a great example of the sham called 'judiciary' in Iran.

There are speculations regarding:
1) whether or not some conservative elements are using their tentacles within the judiciary to pick on Saberi so as to stick a crowbar in the wheels of the advocates of normalization with the U.S. Very possible.
2) whether or not Saberi's case is a show of toughness by some who need to showcase their credentials in the coming elections, in June. Possible, but a week explanation.

It could also be a manufactured case so as to have something for the Iranian government with which to show their 'high intentions and good will'. My guess is Saberi will be released as a 'show of good will'. (Naturally, it would be very dreadful if things came to a situation where I would have to eat those words!)

Another case, that of Hossein Derakhshan, is equally indicative of how politicized the Iranian judiciary is. Derakhshan is known as the 'godfather of blogging in Iran' (under the blogger name, Hoder). His politics is pretty much aligned with the reformists' platform, though he has also written approvingly of Ahmadinejad's policies (see his blog here). 

Yet, he has been in detention since November 2008. The charge against him is quite an unfounded one of spying for Israel. The apparent reason for his being in prison is a trip to Israel in 2006 on his Canadian passport, to build 'people-to-people' understanding between the two countries, a trip used by the authorities as the excuse to bring the espionage charges. It must be said that additional motivation for bringing such absurd charges against him could have been provided by Derakhshan's ideas for some very mild reforms for more free expression than currently allowed, and his gentler criticisms of the wilder aspects of the theocratic-obsessive policies of the state.

In his letter to urge the head of the Iranian judiciary to ensure fairness in dealing with Roxana Saberi's case, President Ahmadinejad asked that the case of Derakhshan also be looked into with more care, thus extending his good will to those who in the past have spoken kindly of his policies.

[Note: My reference here to Derakhshan's expressed support for some of Ahmadinejad's policies is in no way to be taken as implying that he 'got his just deserts', or anything as obscene as that; not at all. Nobody should be jailed based on ideas they express. Whether or not Derakhshan exercised good political foresight, or whether or not he should have/could have spoken in defense of other, more radical political prisoners in Iran when he had a large platform ... all those things are completely beside the point and have absolutely nothing to do with his unqualified right to free speech. The point here is to establish that in Iran even political non-foes are not spared the random brutality of the 'justice' system.]

Be that as it may, 'good will' toward the Iranian people is a torturous joke and, from the government side, in very scarce supply. Especially when it comes to other prisoners held purely on political grounds: women's rights activists, labor unionists, student activists, socialists and radical democrats, national-minority rights activists (mostly Kurdish, Azeri and some Arabs) or ... and this one takes the cake ... blasphemers. That's right, apostates and blasphemers. Iranian socialists are obliged to repeatedly remind western readers and followers of things Iranian that for the past thirty years in our country, if a judge really wants to, he can throw the charge of 'fighting against God' (in Farsi, 'Moharebeh baa Khoda') at anybody he wishes.

Now, pardon me for asking, but isn't it really presumptuous for any human agency, and more so for a religious-based one, to imply that God cannot take care of himself in a fight against a mere human being? But, I guess lucky and convenient for God, the Iranian mullahs have the charge in their books, and lucky for the mullahs it must be very helpful in putting the lid on undesirable advocacy by any kept under the thumb of the state.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pre-May Day intimidation of Iranian workers

From Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations (Iran).

Mass arrest of members of Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations [CCHFWO], creating an atmosphere of terror and intimidation right before May 1st!
April 17th, 2009

On April 17th, 2009 while members of CCHFWO were attending a meeting with the family of Mr. Ghaleb Hosseini,- who has been incarcerated because of his participation in May 1st celebrations of last year-, about 11:00 AM the house was surrounded by security forces, and all members of CCHFWO present in the house were arrested.

CCHFWO members' presence in that residence stems from our class solidarity, as an expression of support for the families of incarcerated workers, - Mr. Ghaleb Hosseini and Mr. Abdollah Khani-, and based on the belief that celebration of May 1st is one of our most basic rights. Supporting our fellow workers has been and will continue to be one of our nominal class tasks.

Around 11o'clock we realized that the house was surrounded, and security forces by the entrance were separating ladies from gentlemen, and saying that all men have been arrested. All the arrestees were transferred to the police station 12 in Vakil Street of Sanandaj; they were all interrogated, and told by non-uniformed security personnel that their gathering was illegal. CCHFWO members protested this categorization and asked: since when visiting friends has become illegal?

In addition all arrestees were photographed and finger printed. By creating an atmosphere of terror and intimidation security personal repeatedly told members that since CCHFWO is illegal, any gathering in relation to it is also a crime, and they all have to give a written statement of non-cooperation with CCHFWO. Otherwise none will be freed and all will have charges brought up against them by the authorities.

CCHFWO members in response stated that they won't sign anything and are proud members, since they are all workers, and as worker activists they consider their duty to defend the interests of our fellow workers. After this exchange and members' adamant defense of their membership, they were all unconditionally released around 5:30PM.

It should be noted that arrestees included a 14 years old youth: Amanj Nikdel, who was unfortunately treated like others and had his picture and fingerprints taken.

We members of Coordinating Committee strongly condemn this brutal treatment, and praise our friends' resistance in defense of their right, including the right to be members of Coordinating Committee, and defending fellow workers. We sincerely support such resolute class support.

Long live class solidarity and unity of workers!

[Original at:]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Samir Amin: Re Durban 2

From MRZine. Some reflections by Samir Amin, one of our favorite radical writers and thinkers. This piece was written in March, before the conference. 

Why Do the NATO Powers Think That Durban 1 Was a Setback and Fear Another at Durban 2?

1. The title of this note is intentional. Over the past twenty years, the Western powers in a military alliance (NATO) have arrogantly cast themselves as representatives of the "international community" and thus marginalized the United Nations, the only institution qualified to speak in its name.

This attitude is now systematic, and, in all international conferences, the NATO powers constitute a separate group, often to collectively oppose the others, "the rest of the world"!

It's no accident that the preferred tool of the group of the nations in question is a military alliance. It reflects the real existence of a collective strategy of the group, a strategy through which the real objectives of this new form of imperialism, which I have called "collective imperialism," are expressed. The real world is divided between dominant powers and dominated countries, and the former, to remain dominant, must preserve access to natural resources of the entire planet for their exclusive profit, and the military control by the armed forces of the United States and its subaltern NATO allies has become the essential means for that purpose.

2. The real objectives of new collective imperialism obviously cannot be admitted. To hide them, the powers in question have decided to exploit the discourse of democracy and human rights to their benefit.

Therefore, the diplomacy of the Triad (the United States, Europe, and Japan) paints a world divided between democratic and undemocratic countries. The democracies (NATO powers) demand a "right to intervene" to promote the progress of democracy and uphold human rights, which are violated here and there by barbaric dictatorships. Some even speak of a "duty to intervene."

3. The agenda of the United Nations scheduled a series of major international conferences to clarify the important choices to be made for the 21st century, one of which concerned the problems of "all forms of racism and discrimination." The format of these conferences included a meeting meant to represent "civil society" held in parallel with a meeting of representatives of governments.

The first conference on racism was held in Durban in September 2001, just days before the 11 September attacks that year.

A second conference is scheduled for April 2009. Although it is to be held in Geneva, it is called "Durban 2."

4. Durban 1 was a double defeat for the NATO powers precisely because their maneuver was defeated both by the majority of governments of the South at their conference and by the Civil Society Forum.

In the framework of their conference, the governments of most countries defended the principles of international law that prohibit any unilateral foreign intervention under any pretext. History has taught them the real reasons for these interventions and the hypocrisy of the discourse of the "civilizing mission," now called "defense of human rights." What has happened since Durban 1 confirms the wisdom of their refusal. The Charter of the United Nations, which authorizes foreign interventions only with the consent of the Security Council and which strictly restricts their scope and duration, has been systematically violated by the NATO powers, which have granted themselves the right to unilaterally decide to pursue their interventions. After the invasion of Iraq, under the pretexts that now everyone knows were completely false, one understands why the NATO powers fear a new "defeat" at Durban 2.

The Civil Society Forum held on the occasion of Durban 1 also condemned the principle of foreign interventions in the affairs of the countries of the South. But it by no means renounced the idea of denouncing crimes committed by governments in the South against their peoples. The forum did not contest the perfect legitimacy of campaigns organized to denounce these crimes and never said that the support of the peoples of the North for these common struggles for democracy was undesirable. However, the forum rightly refused to confuse necessary expressions of international solidarity of peoples with unilateral decisions to intervene made by the governments of the North! One cannot blame them. Through their experience of history, the peoples of the South know that imperialist domination has always been a major obstacle to democracy. They know that the reason invoked to legitimize interventions -- the "defense of democracy" -- has never been brought up unless the planned interventions served the real objectives of imperialist domination. The peoples of the South must themselves take up their struggle for liberation, democracy, and social progress.

The NATO powers, after Durban 1, questioned whether the Civil Society Forum was "representative." Certainly, the format of these forums, which bring together many organizations from a variety of schools of thought, remains a subject of necessary critical reflection. And the format to ensure "authentic representation" of peoples remains difficult to define. Nevertheless, the forum at Durban 1 was certainly no less representative than others, especially those forums of NGOs hand-picked by some international institutions like the World Bank!

The institutionalization of appropriate forms of representation of peoples, designed to strengthen the legitimacy of the United Nations rather than weaken it, surely constitutes a goal that must be pursued. Discussion and proposals for action in this direction should be put on the agenda of Social Forums and all democratic and progressive organizations.

For the peoples of the South, Durban 1 was a success. I myself wrote an article along these lines ("World Conference against Racism: A People's Victory," Monthly Review, December 2001). That is precisely the reason why the NATO powers have themselves described it as "failure."

Read the complete article here ...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Israel "retracts" Iran attack

Found this on Payvand Iran News.

Israel backs off from attack on Iran
Payvand News / April 16, 200

Press TV - Israel has retracted a military option against Iran just after Washington refused to back up Tel Aviv's attack to halt Tehran's nuclear work.  Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Thursday that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could not be a resolution to the long disputed matter.

"The solution in Iran is not a military one," Peres told visiting US Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Thursday, AFP reported.

Peres had said in a Sunday interview with Kol Hai Radio that Israel 'will' strike Iran should diplomacy fail but stressed that Tel Aviv would not go to war with Tehran independently.

"We certainly cannot go [for] it alone, without the US, and we definitely can't go against the US. This would be unnecessary," Peres explained.

But the US declined to give a green light to Israel, warning that the attack would result in grave consequences. [...] 

Gates added that an attack on Iran would adversely cement Iran's "determination to have a nuclear program and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits" the country.
Israel's threat to launch an attack against Iran also prompted the Islamic Republic to send a critical letter to the United Nations. In his letter to the UN Security Council, Iran's ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaei called "unlawful and insolent" the recent war rhetoric against the country.

"Officials of the Zionist regime [Israel] have repeatedly threatened to resort to violence against the Islamic Republic. These threats, blatant violations of international law and the UN Charter, are repeated with inaction on behalf of the Security Council," the letter said.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Turkish-U.S. Relations

"Step right this way, my brother!"

From Online Journal. Good analysis on the importance for the U.S. of wooing Turkey, and how Turkey's alignment with either Russia or the U.S. could change the geo-political map in the region.

Turkey, Washington’s geopolitical pivot
By F. William Engdahl
Online Journal Contributing Writer/Apr 17, 2009

The recent visit of US President Obama to Turkey was far more significant than the president’s speech would suggest. For Washington, Turkey today has become a geopolitical “pivot state” which is in the position to tilt the Eurasian power equation towards Washington or significantly away from it, depending on how Turkey develops its ties with Moscow and its role regarding key energy pipelines.

If Ankara decides to collaborate more closely with Russia, Georgia’s position is precarious and Azerbaijan’s natural gas pipeline route to Europe, the so-called Nabucco Pipeline, is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under US auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.

The Turkish-EU Problem
However willing Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan might be to accommodate Obama, the question of Turkish relations with the EU is inextricably linked with the troublesome issue of Turkish membership to the EU, a move vehemently opposed by France and also less openly by Germany.

Turkey is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey -- which has considerable influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans -- is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and German ties to Russia weaken considerably. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is dependent on Russian energy. Since it became clear in Moscow that US strategy was to extend NATO to Russia’s front door via Ukraine and Georgia, Russia has moved to use its economic “carrot,” its vast natural gas resources, to at the very least neutralize Western Europe, especially Germany, towards Russia. It is notable in that regard that the man chosen as Russia’s President in December 1999 had spent a significant part of his KGB career in Germany.

Turkey and the US Game
It is becoming clear that Obama and Washington are playing a deeper game. A few weeks before the meetings, when it had become obvious that the Europeans were not going to bend on the issues, such as troops for Afghanistan or more economic stimulus, that concerned the United States, Obama scheduled the trip to Turkey.

During the recent EU meetings in Prague, Obama actively backed Turkey’s application for EU membership knowing well that that put especially France and Germany in a difficult position, as EU membership would allow free migration which many EU countries fear. Obama deliberately confronted EU states with this knowing he was playing with geopolitical fire, especially as the US is no member of the EU. It was a deliberate and cheap way to score points with the Erdogan government of Turkey.

During the NATO meeting, a key item on the agenda was the selection of a new alliance secretary-general. The favorite was former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey opposed him because of his defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish magazine. NATO operates on consensus, so any one member can block Rasmussen. The Turks backed off the veto, and in return won two key positions in NATO, including that of deputy secretary-general.

Turkey, thereby, boosted its standing in NATO and got Obama to vigorously defend the Turkish application for membership in the European Union, which of course the United States does not belong to. Obama then went to Turkey for a key international meeting that will allow him to further position the United States in relation to Islam.

Read the complete article here ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MEK in High-Stakes Politics

From Uruknet. Watch this one as one of the barometers of how relations between Iran and the U.S. are developing. 

Iranian group in Iraq part of high-stakes politics
By KATARINA KRATOVAC (AP)/April 14, 2009

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government is stepping up efforts to pressure Iranian exiles into leaving the country, pushing an obscure group to the forefront of Baghdad's relations with Washington and the Obama administration's overtures to Iran.

At stake is whether Iraq can resolve the fate of 3,500 members of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran without damaging its ties to both the U.S. and Iran.

In recent weeks, leaders of the People's Mujahedeen, known by its Farsi initials MEK, claim the Iraqis blockaded their Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, allowing in only limited food and water shipments.

And earlier this month, they say, the Iraqi guards prevented Iraqi surgeons from entering the camp to treat critically ill patients — although the Iraqis ultimately relented.

To outsiders, the MEK may seem a strange cult-like group that bans sex and family life — an image the MEK attributes to "demonization" by the Iranian government.

Both the U.S. and Iran consider it a terrorist organization.

The Iraqi government makes no secret it wants the MEK out of the country in order to improve relations with Iran.

"Remaining in Iraq is not an option," said national security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie. "They have existed in Iraq solely to overthrow the government of a neighbor, Iran. That past permissiveness is over."

Iran has pressed for years to close the camp, but the issue came to a head after Iraqi forces took over security for Camp Ashraf on Jan. 1, under the Iraq-U.S. security pact. The government gave the Americans assurances they would not force the exiles back to Iran, where some face prosecution.

U.S. officials in Baghdad have declined to comment publicly on the MEK issue.

But the U.S. has a stake in the issue because the U.S. military signed an agreement with the militia after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, promising members would be treated as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Al-Rubaie says that with Iraqis in control, the MEK is no longer protected by national laws or international conventions and must leave.

He dismisses claims of maltreatment and says Camp Ashraf residents are extremists who have been "brainwashed" by about 15-20 of their most militant leaders. The U.S. has tried to defuse the tensions but without much success.

Read the complete article here ...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ben-Gurion and Massacre of Deir Yassin

From The Palestine Chronicle.

By Iqbal Jassat/April 11, 2009

The minutes of a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 12 June 1938 records a chilling statement made by David Ben-Gurion:

“I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it”.

Ben-Gurion, an ardent Zionist was a migrant from Poland where he was born in 1886. Since his arrival in Palestine as a 20-year old, Ben-Gurion was destined to be heralded as not only the founder of the State of Israel and its first prime minister, but also as the mastermind of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

In his Diary, an entry on 12 July 1937, Ben-Gurion records writing to his son that the only course of action open to Zionism was: “The Arabs will have to go”. What was needed was an opportune moment for making it happen, as Israeli historian and senior academic Ilan Pappe observes in his awesome study The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Pappe describes Ben-Gurion as short of stature, with a large shock of white hair swept backwards and invariably dressed in khaki uniform.

In order to make sense of the current politics of Israel, which under the right-wing leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant in denying Palestinian rights, its significant to grasp the malicious intent on the part of his predecessors. Zionist leaders such as Ben-Gurion developed and implemented concrete actions to empty Palestine of its natives. Its equally useful to recollect that in the period between 1919 to 1933 after 35,000 more Zionists immigrated to Palestine, Jewish hold of the land constituted less than 3% while their population stood at 12%.

It means that at the time the League of Nations approved Britain’s Mandate for Palestine in 1922, population figures reflected on a British census of Palestine reveals: 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish, 9.6% Christian, total population 757,182.

Historical facts, which chronicle the injustice committed against indigenous Palestinians by Jewish migrants, have unfortunately been relegated to mere footnotes.

Yet these footnotes reveal much despite efforts by Israel and its supporters to banish them from memory.

A further chilling message is the one attributed to Zionist leader Jabotinsky who wrote in 1939 that “…… the Arabs must make room for the Jews in Eretz Israel. If it was possible to transfer the Baltic peoples, it is also possible to move the Palestinian Arabs”.

Read the complete article here ...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Iran: Jailed Students At Risk of Torture

From International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (via SB News).

Students Held in Incommunicado Detention Are At Risk of Torture

(4 April 2009) The Iranian government should immediately and unconditionally release all detained students the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The students are being held in incommunicado detention in Tehran, Rejaee Shahr and Isfahan. The Campaign is seriously concerned for their safety and high risk of torture.

On 23 February 2009, the Amir Kabir University campus was violently attacked by government forces. Students were protesting the burial of “unknown martyrs” on their campus. The following day, 24 February 2009, security agents attacked the homes of four Amir Kabir students, Ahmad Ghasaban, Nariman Mostafavi, Mehdi Mashayekhi and Abbas Hakimzadeh. All four were detained. Previously, on 5 February 2009, four other Amir Kabir University students were detained. Majid Tavakoli, Hossein Torkashvand, Esmael Salmanpour and Koursh Daneshyar were arrested for participating in a ceremony to honor Mehdi Bazargan, the first Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic. The eight students are all being held in Evin Prison in Tehran.

In an interview with the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) on 6 March 2009, Judge Hadad, the Deputy of the Security Prosecution Court, was asked about the situation of the four students arrested on 24 February. He said, “We have been after these people for a long time. This group planned and implemented radical student actions and they disseminated and published false information in Amir Kabir News. They were also being interviewed by radio services abroad. This group of students conducted the majority of these activities.”

“It is a violation of due process to announce charges against detainees publicly while their attorneys have not been allowed to visit them or even read their files,” Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson, said.

“The students’ colleagues and family are seriously concerned they are being tortured to make false confessions. Any confessions obtained under such circumstances should be impermissible by any court,” he added.

Brief phone conversations of the eight students with their families indicate they are likely being tortured. Some of the students, including Hakimzadeh and Torkashvand, have not been allowed to contact their families at all. Hakimzadeh is also critically ill and requires special medical treatment. Any effort by family members and attorneys to visit the students and ask for their release has had no effect.

Security and judiciary forces have not stopped at targeting students. During New Year Celebrations, family and friends of the detained students gathered in front of Evin Prison to show their support. The gathering led to the detention of Bahareh Hedayat, Milad Asadi, Mehdi Arabshahi, Majid Dari, Saeed Fayzolahzadeh, Hamed Azizi, Nariman Mostafavi’s mother and Milad Asadi’s parents. Following these detentions, Farid Hashemi and Amin Nazari, members of the Office to Foster Unity (Daftar e Tahkim Vahdat) were arrested when they went to the security office to ask for the release their colleagues. All these detainees were held in Darabad Police Station and ill-treated, causing Judge Matteen Rasekh to issue an apology. The detainees were released over the course of three days, with the last being released on 23 March 2009.

The Campaign has consistently reported on the relentless surveillance and targeting of university students. A report issued on National Student Day in November 2008 included an alert on surveillance of Majid Tavakoli. For the past three years, Tavakoli and three other students have been the subject of an anti-Islamic defamation case, even though the prosecution hasn’t met Iranian and international standards of fair trials. The three accused students in the case, including Tavakoli, spent 15 months in jail under severe pressure, ill treatment and torture despite the fact that they weren’t found guilty by a court. After their release, not only were they denied the opportunity to continue their studies, but their daily lives were monitored constantly by security forces. In a short phone call to his family, Tavakoli told them that he is still being interrogated with regard to this case.

Regarding the arrest of Tavakoli and others on 5 February, Judge Hadad told ISNA, “Seven people were arrested in the illegal ceremony to honor Bazargan. All of them have records and one of them is Majid Tavakoli, who is the main accused in the anti Islam defamation case at Amir Kabir University. These people were being monitored and pursued by security and judiciary forces for some time.”

“The surveillance and detentions of innocent students is not justifiable and the words of Judge Hadad once again show that the Iranian Judiciary works in concert with the Intelligence Ministry,” Ghaemi said. “Hadad is the presiding judge and should make clear under which laws and regulations students can be followed and arrested without judicial warrants and without being formally charged,” he added.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has previously expressed its deep concern about Madadzadeh’s health and safety. Last year in a similar situation, a group of students faced the same charge. One of them, Ibrahim Lotfolahi, died under suspicious circumstances. Two other students, charged with “acting on behalf of political opposition groups abroad,” were tortured to make false confessions. These confessions were used as evidence against them during their prosecution. The confessions led to an execution sentence for Habibolah Latifi and lengthy prison sentence for Yaser Goli.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, citing the Iranian government’s international obligations to respect the rights of students to freedom of association and freedom of expression, called for the immediate release of all detained students. The Campaign urged the Judiciary to investigate and prosecute officials who ordered and implemented these arbitrary detentions. The Campaign called on the international community and UN mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detentions and the Special Rapporteur on Torture, to condemn the wide range of student rights violations in Iran and remind Iranian authorities of their obligations under international treaties.

Read complete article here ...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Biden warns Israel off an Iran attack

"You f@#k with them, and you f@#k with me now! Capiche?"

Found @ Los Angeles Times (via Uruknet).

Vice President Joe Biden tells CNN that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be 'ill advised' to try to strike Iranian nuclear facilities.

By Paul Richter / April 8, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- Vice President Joe Biden issued a high-level admonishment to Israel's new government Tuesday that it would be "ill advised" to launch a military strike against Iran.

Biden said in a CNN interview that he does not believe newly installed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would take such a step. Even so, his comment underscored a gap between the conservative new Israeli government and the Obama White House on a series of questions, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran.

While the Obama administration has made a series of recent overtures to Tehran, the Israelis have grown more confrontational out of concern that the Islamic Republic's increasing nuclear know-how could one day become an existential threat.

Netanyahu signaled several times during his election campaign that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. "I promise that if I am elected, Iran will not acquire nuclear arms," he said in one appearance, "and this implies everything necessary to carry this out."

Read complete article here ...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Anti-NATO Protests in Strasbourg

Why does NATO still exist when it was supposed to be a military organization built to counter the Soviet Union's reach into western Europe? And what is a western European military alliance doing in Afghanistan?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Smash the G20 Agenda!

We salute the protesters in London! 
Smash Capital! 
Block their restoration! 
Deepen the Crisis!