Anger raises among Iranian Diaspora on Ebadi's controversial stands
SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 14, 2004
Anger is raising among the Iranian Diaspora following the continuation of controversial stands and anti US rhetoric's by Shirin Ebadi.
More and more Iranian exiles are getting upset about her dual stands and persistent efforts to promote the false idea of the possibility of reforms from within the frame of the ruling theocracy. Many of them, just as like as many Iranians of inside, see in Ebadi a new version of demagogy which was made by Mohamad Khatami and his groups for nearly 7 years and bought more time for the Islamic regime by inducing many World leaders in error.
While many Iranians are using the US based Persian talk radio and TV networks for denouncing Ms. Ebadi at the issue of each of her speeches made in the US, several Iranians residing in Los Angles are intending to size the opportunity offered by her today's presence, from 04:00 PM, at the UCLA in order to organize protest actions. Several of them have been able to procure entry tickets despite the strict selection made by Ebadi's meetings organizers and are intending, just as like as in Vancouver and WDC, to bypass the closed Q&A session and to ask her to take a final stand and to show if she's with the People or the Regime.
SMCCDI Coordinator requested, yesterday and during a program broadcasted by the Los Angeles based Lahze TV Network, from all Iranians having principles to try to get into the conference room and to protest against any demagogy and Ebadi's stands by questionning him on issues related to Iran and its people. Aryo Pirouznia had warned also the Iranians about the prospect of a new "reformist" policy promoted by circles affiliated or benefiting from the Islamic regime during several interviews, such as the one, broadcasted last week by the popular NITV following Ebadi's trip to the US.
Already SMCCDI had raised concerns following Ebadi's nomination last year. A Statement entitled "The Nobel Peace Prize and her Historic Duty" warned Ms. Ebadi on any kind of future deviation from the aspirations of the Iranian people striving for Freedom and Democracy. A Persian copy of the statement was e.mailed to Ms. Ebadi and a hard copy of it was remitted to her at the Paris Airport by the Movement's representative in France telling her that "She's carrying the hopes of many Iranians and may that she doesn't deceive them".
The original statement in Persian and its English translation are availabel on this website.
To better understand the situation, one must remember that many Iranians first welcomed Ebadis sudden nomination for the Nobel Peace Price by believing that she could be a catalyst for change. Tired of nearly a quarter of a century of a dictatorial and theocratic rule by Iranian mullahs and deceived by seven years of empty promises on even small possibilities of "reforms within the frame of their current regime," many Iranians preferred to see her as a light glowing at the end of a dark tunnel by not discussing the strange conditions of her rushed nomination coinciding with a short three-day trip to France. Her nomination was all the more tarnished by Polands 1983 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa's critique and the Nobel Committees advanced excuses of not being able to reach her sooner, which were at first ignored by many Iranians.
Back from her short trip, thousands of Iranians sized the occasion by gathering at Tehran Airport and shouting slogans in favor of freedom and against Iran's current leadership including its "reformist" President. But deception soon took place when Iranians witnessed that their "Angel of Freedom" started to shift from many of her initial positions by becoming more of a governmental speaker than a rights activist like the brave and courageous Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. Many Iranians were shocked when Ms. Ebadi stated that "she kisses the hands of the Islamic Parliament members" and called for a "massive participation for their re-election of the very same MPs" that saw their mass rejection in the boycott of Iran's last elections by a majority of Iranians tired of such games. Ebadi's countrymen's deception reached its culmination when they heard her saying that "she would have voted for Mr. Khatami if he could have run again. In their minds, their first Nobel peace prize recipient became the advocate of the very same rejected and incompetent President asked to resign by thousands of Iranian demonstrators defying his brutal and evil regime.
Worst, they saw her taking the defense of Taliban and Al-Qaeda members held at the afar Guantanamo Bay for mass murder and terror while she kept silent about the fate of hundreds of brave Iranians and students held at her nearby Evin and Qhasr prisons for the crime of aspiring for freedom and democracy. The only prisoners having benefited from Ms. Ebadi's public support were at a certain point part of the 1979 revolution or close to moderate religious circles. Held secularists or those calling, like many Iranians, for a Referendum were not able to benefit from her public support as they have put to question the existence of the regime in its totality. Maverick Iranian women also saw their hope in Ms. Ebadi dashed when she intervened on several occasions against the French law on the ban of the Islamic veil and any religious signs in France's traditional secular public schools. They were astonished at how she affirmed on several occasions her obeisance to her countrys repressive law of the mandatory wearing of the veil by women and her keeping her silence on the fate of thousands of her sisters killed, injured, arrested or fined for having chosen to defy the discriminatory and cruel law existing in Iran.
Most likely, knowing the deception she has caused among a young population aspiring for secularism and tired of seeing its genuine aspirations to be somehow labeled by foreign diplomats as variances of Religious Protestantism or Reformist Islamism, and especially the big possibility of a popular hostile demonstration were the main reasons behind the organization of her second return to Iran in a very silent and strange manner. This time, despite having officially received the Nobel award, she returned by one of the Tehran airport's small doors. The official invoked the reason was the fear for her life due to a tract attributed to one of the several hard-line Islamist groups which Iranian leaders and their strategists have shown so many times as their Savoir de faire in their sudden opportune creations.
Of course, it is of note that in any case Ms. Ebadi would not have risked her precious life if she would have only kept her initial word of staying afar from political issues instead of choosing to become an advocator of rejected factions of the current regime and Iran's minor soft opposition from within the Islamic republic.
Blix: Iran can make nukes in two years
May 15, 2004, 05:53
STOCKHOLM--Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said on Thursday that it was possible that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within two years and urged the country to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Blix was responding to comments by an unidentified Iranian official who told Swedish public radio that secret experiments were being conducted in underground laboratories in the country and that a nuclear weapon could be built within two years.
"It does not sound completely unreasonable that (an Iranian nuclear weapon could be developed within two years). It depends how far they've come in developing the centrifuges that are needed," Blix said in an interview by the radio.
The Iranian official, speaking to Swedish radio from Iran, suggested experiments were linked to advanced centrifuges that Iran had developed to enrich uranium, the process that can be used either to develop nuclear fuel or warheads.
IAEA unable to clear Iran of all suspicions so far
UNITED NATIONS, May 15 (Itar-Tass) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency is still unprepared to clear Iran of all suspicions its nuclear program may be weaponized, IAEA Executive Director Mohammed ElBaradei has said.
"We will close the file when we have dealt with all the issues that require to be investigated," said ElBaradei, whose board of governors will meet in June on Iran's nuclear activities.
Tehran "has the know how" to enrich uranium but there is no proof that it had been processed to a military level, he said.
The United States suspects Iran harbors nuclear ambitions and it has been urging the international community, in the first place, Russia and the European Union, to stop any cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field.
Iran has strongly dismissed these charges and promised to submit to the IAEA the full account of its peaceful activity in the nuclear field in the middle of May.
In the meantime, the last group of IAEA specialists is about to finish inspections of Irans nuclear facilities. Their findings are to be included in El-Baradeis report to be made at the IAEA board of governors meeting in June before a final decision on the Iranian nuclear dossier is made.
Russia believes that Iran has been accused of breaching the nuclear arms non-proliferation treaty without any serious reason. Moscow hails Teherans active and constructive cooperation with the IAEA. It wants the IAEAs remaining concerns to be cleared up and confidence-building measures continued, including Irans voluntary commitment to freeze all uranium enrichment work.
Iraqi holy cities red line warns Iran
TEHRAN: Iran and Shiite Muslim leaders warned the United States on Friday that the Iraqi holy cities of Najaf and Karbala were "red lines" not is crossed. "We are concerned at the intensification of the fighting in Iraq especially in Najaf and Karbala, and we condemn the killing of innocent Iraqis," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.
"The responsibility for the insecurity in Iraq falls on the occupiers, and we want the occupying forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible and give authority back to the Iraqis," he added. Explosions and gunfire Friday as US forces sought to crush an insurgency by renegade Shiite cleric Moqtadar Sadr ahead of the June 30 return of sovereignty shook Najaf.
The heaviest fighting occurred in and around Najafs cemetery, considered sacred ground by Shiite Muslims who form the majority in Iraq and neighbouring Iran. There were also running clashes this week in Karabala in which tens of Sadr militiamen were killed, although the cleric has vowed to continue his fight. Almost 90 percent of Iranians are Shiites, while Najaf and Karabala are home to some of the sects most sacred sites.
Iran vehemently opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, despite having fought an eight-year war until 1988 with its neighbour in which more than one million dead were killed on both sides. In Beirut, a Shiite Muslim leader had a stern warning for the Americans. "The holy cities of Najaf and Karbala have been the object for several days of a barbaric and savage attack by the American occupation forces.
Iran, Saudi Arabia Call For United Islamic World to Confront Iraq's Occupiers
AMMAN (IRNA) -- Iran and Saudi Arabia's parliament speakers in a meeting here on Wednesday night stressed on need for the Islamic world's unity to confront the occupiers of Iraq. During the meeting on the sidelines of a conference attended by the parliament speakers of Iraq's neighbors, Hojjatoleslam Karrubi said, "The only way to confront the enemies of Islam effectively is to achieve Islamic unity at global level."
He also elaborated on the Islamic Republic of Iran's detente policy and its positive effects on regional cooperation with the country's various neighbors. The parliament speaker added, "The excellent Tehran-Riyadh relations, for instance, has had a significant positive regional and international effect." Expressing deep sorrow over the inhumane torture and massacre of the innocent Iraqis by the uninvited occupiers of their country, Karrubi said, "Ever-more proximity of the world Muslims would annul the inhumane plots hatched against the Iraqi nation by the occupiers."
He also considered the situation in Palestine as extremely complicated, asking for the Muslim nations' cooperation to solve the Palestinians' problems.
The Majlis speaker at the end once again asked for close Parliamentary relations between the two friendly countries. Saudi Arabia's Parliament Speaker Saleh bin-Abdullah bin-Hamid, too, said during the meeting, "The past experience proves that good relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia can benefit both countries, as well as the whole region." Stressing that Riyadh is trying to further deepen and broaden its ties and cooperation with Tehran, the Saudi parliament speaker confirmed, "The Middle East is now facing one of its toughest eras in its history, and the threats against Mideast are serious." The Saudi parliament speaker emphasized at the end on the importance of maintaining excellent relations between the two important regional countries, that he said is to the benefit of the Islamic Ummah, adding, "Further improving the Tehran-Riyadh ties would have a positive effect on Middle East developments."
Iran highlights Berlins chemical aid for Saddam
TEHRAN Tehrans city council erected a plaque outside the German embassy on Friday denouncing Germanys contribution to Saddam Husseins chemical weapons, in the latest swipe of a diplomatic feud between Berlin and Irans clerical leaders.
Name of the German government for the Iranian nation is the reminder of the great catastrophe of chemical massacre during the Iraqi Baathi regime imposed war against Iran, read the English version of the inscription on the rhombus shaped plaque placed on a white stone pillar in front of the German embassy in Tehran.
The then German government bestowed chemical weapons and the relevant production technology on Saddams regime to slaughter the Muslims in Iran and Iraq (Halabcheh), it added.
The inscription was also written in Farsi but not in German. Tehrans municipality gave the order on April 27 to put up the plaque in a direct response to the unveiling the week before of a plaque outside a restaurant in Berlin denouncing Iran for the 1992 murders there of four Kurdish dissidents. afp
A Journalist in Danger
Iraj Jamshidi , editor-in-chief of Asia, was arrested on 06.07.03 and Asia office was closed by the authorities the day after without any legal proceedings. He has been in prison since then (200 days in solitary confinement). There has been no judicial process and the court has been delayed for no reason. Moreover, to put pressure on him, the judiciary authorities arrested his only child who is 18 and imprisoned him in solitary confinement for 30 days. All the above has caused serious psychological and physical damage to him.
Iraj Jamshidi has worked as a journalist for 25 years. In his career he was the chief editor of a few political and economic magazines and 3 well-known economic newspapers in Iran. He also worked as a correspondent with BBC, RFI (Radio France International), NHK ,KRSI, Liberty and VOA (Voice of America) radios, and this has been one of the reasons for his imprisonment.
This just in from a student inside of Iran...
"There are reports of vast protests in North West of Iran in the cities of Ardebil and Pars Abad, in gooya.com & baztab persian News websites.
As many as 5000 workers rallied in the city to protest against the low incomes and discriminations that the regime impose on them.
They protested about 6 hrs and gathered in front of the Governor's Office and damaged the governmental buildings and broke governor's office windows.
The protest was cracked down by regime's security forces when the crowd refused to leave and many of the workers injured and taken to hospitals.
The Moghan industrial complex has around 6000 workers and it is one of the biggest industrial complexes of the Middle East."
US warns citizens of dangers traveling in Iran
15 May 2004
WASHINGTON - The US Department of State on Friday warned US citizens that travel to Iran could be dangerous.
The State Department renewed earlier warnings that citizens carefully weigh the risks of travel to Iran and check the departments security updates before going.
Due to ongoing tensions in the region, particularly along the border with Iraq, US citizens may be at higher risk of harassment or kidnapping, the State Department said in a statement.
The war in neighboring Iraq as well as tensions between the US and Iranian governments have increased the potential threat, the State Department said.
Some elements of the Iranian government and population remain hostile to the US, the statement said.
American citizens may be subject to the possibility of harassment or kidnapping.
Some areas of the country, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan generally, are not safe for tourism.
The Kurdish northwest of the country and areas near the Iraqi border are not considered safe either, the statement said.
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, it said, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens in Iran.
Velvet Hand, Iron Glove
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: May 15, 2004
I had just about convinced myself that Iran is not a police state and then the authorities detained me for a second time.
The first time was in Isfahan, for committing journalism. The police apologized and let me go after 30 minutes when my papers were found to be in order. The second time was at Tehran's airport as I was trying to leave, and this time the interrogation was tougher.
"Have you ever been to Israel?" Gulp, yes.
"Are you working for the Israeli government?" Of course not.
"Are you working for the American government?" I tried to explain that my views make me unemployable by either the Bush or Sharon administrations, but the interrogators were weak on both subtlety and humor.
After hinting for 90 minutes that I was a spy and a liar, and that they might hold on to me indefinitely, the interrogators finally let me board my plane. Indeed, toward the end, they seemed worried principally by my threat to write about the encounter.
That episode crystallized an impression that had been forming during my trip through Iran: if it were an efficient police state, it might survive. But it's not. It cracks down episodically, tossing dissidents in prison and occasionally even murdering them (like a Canadian-Iranian journalist last year). But Iran doesn't control information partly because satellite television is ubiquitous, if illegal and people mostly get away with scathing criticism as long as they do not organize against the government.
The embarrassing point for us is that while Iran is no democracy, it has a much freer society than many of our allies in the Middle East. In contrast with Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran has (rigged) elections, and two of its vice presidents are women. The Iranian press is not as free as it was a few years ago, but it is now bolstered by blogs (Web logs) and satellite TV, which offer real scrutiny of government officials.
I was astonished that everywhere I went in Iran, people would immediately tell me their names and agree to be photographed and then say something like, "There is no freedom here."
All this means, I think, that the Iranian regime is destined for the ash heap of history. An unpopular regime can survive if it is repressive enough, but Iran's hard-liners don't imprison their critics consistently enough to instill terror.
Pet dogs, for example, are strongly discouraged in Iran as dirty and contrary to Islam, and traffic police regularly arrest dogs and their owners. But the number of pet dogs is multiplying, and Tehran now has dozens of veterinary clinics.
Many Iranians believe that the Iranian leadership is pursuing a "Chinese model," in which the authorities tolerate personal freedoms but rigidly control politics. But it won't work. In China, the greatest expansion of personal freedoms was followed, in 1989, by the biggest antigovernment demonstrations in Chinese history.
In one country after another (including Iran in 1979), repressive governments have tried to buy time by easing up a tad, and dissidents have used that as leverage to oust the oppressors. I'm convinced that Iran will be the same (although I should acknowledge that my Iranian friends, who know the situation much better, tend to be more pessimistic).
The crisis in legitimacy even manages to create nostalgia for the repressive shah. "Everybody longs for the good old days of the shah," said Amir, a peasant in a village north of Isfahan. "Prices were cheap, and he was good at building the country. If the shah built a road, it would still be good after 30 years. Now if they build a road, it cracks and falls apart in a few years."
Young people constantly told me how they scolded their parents for backing the Islamic Revolution in 1979. As a young woman, Sogand Tayebi, put it, "Those who backed the revolution are now sorry about that."
In the end, I find Iran a hopeful place. Ordinary people are proving themselves irrepressible, and they will triumph someday and forge a glistening example of a Muslim country that is a pro-American democracy in the Middle East.
I treasure a memory from the airport: after I was detained, a security goon X-rayed my bags for the second time and puzzled over my computer equipment. He snarled at me, "American reporters bad!" The X-ray operator, who perhaps didn't know quite what was going on, beamed at me and piped up, "Americans very good!"
EU Warns Iran On Terror, WMD, Human Rights
Gary Fitleberg, 05/14/04
The European Union (EU) warned Iran it could lose any chance of improving trade relations if it does not end its support for terrorism, comply with international nuclear weapons inspectors and respect human rights, the British daily The Independent reported.
During his visit to Brussels, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi received this message from senior EU officials. Said one EU official: "Frankly, we are a little disappointed with progress on the nuclear issue. The elections were also very disappointing because of the exclusion of so many reformist candidates."
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton last week declared Iran in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council for further measures.
In a statement to the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT, Bolton said, "There is as yet no reason to believe that Iran has made a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons program and its violation of its NPT Article II obligations."
Cleric Urges End to Najaf Battle
May 15, 2004
An aide to the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia Muslims, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called for an end to the fighting in the holy city of Najaf. American tanks went into the city's ancient cemetery in response to what US forces said were attacks by supporters of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
It is not known how many people died in the fighting, but one source told the BBC that bodies littered the streets.
Sadr supporters have also attacked the US-led coalition's HQ in Nasiriya.
The Mehdi Army (MA) militants have pinned down foreign and other staff inside the building in the southern city.
Reports say they have also gained control of several strategic points in Nasiriya, including a central bridge.
There has also been fighting in the holy city of Karbala, where at least four Iraqis are said to have been killed.
Fears for holy sites
Heavy fighting in Najaf raged up until Friday afternoon when a pause set in but sporadic gunfire returned after dark.
Mr Sadr's followers showed off four holes in the golden dome of the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, accusing the Americans of shelling it.
However, Brig Gen Mark Kimmit, the coalition's deputy operations director, suggested the cleric's own militia may have been responsible for the holes.
"I can just tell you by the looks of where we were firing and where Moqtada's militia was firing, I would put my money that Moqtada caused it," he said.
The BBC's David Willis in Baghdad says the Americans have consistently said they will not encroach on the Imam Ali Shrine but in recent days they have said their patience is wearing thin.
Mr Sadr, who is wanted by the US in connection with the assassination of a rival Shia cleric, launched an uprising against coalition forces last month.
Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Mohri, aide to Ayatollah Sistani, called on both the US military and Mr Sadr's forces to leave Najaf.
He told Reuters news agency that the fighting was spreading fast and he feared for the holy sites and Ayatollah Sistani's safety.
US troops fired cannon and machine-guns at Shia militants sheltering in the sprawling cemetery, about three kilometres (two miles) from the Imam Ali Shrine, close to where Mr Sadr has taken sanctuary.
And American tanks blocked off roads between Najaf and the nearby holy city of Kufa, in an apparent attempt to prevent Mr Sadr from reaching Kufa for his habitual Friday prayers.
However, Mr Sadr appeared in Kufa to deliver his sermon in which he denounced coalition leaders and condemned Iraqis working for the occupying forces.
In Baghdad's mainly Shia slum of Sadr City, representatives of Mr Sadr urged young men to go to Najaf and join the fight and there were similar militant calls in Iraq's second city, Basra.
Nuclear Monitor Sees Treaties Weakening
May 15, 2004
The New York Times
The chief international nuclear weapons monitor warned yesterday that the intricate web of treaties and agreements that limit the spread of nuclear weapons was weakening and could be endangered unless sweeping reforms to the system were made in the United Nations Security Council and elsewhere.
Speaking at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he and President Bush had discussed at the White House working jointly toward a package of measures to bolster the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and on other reforms that he called crucial to stopping the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
Specifically, he said, he and the Bush administration had discussed a proposal to spend between $50 million and $100 million over the next five years to better guard stockpiles of highly enriched uranium in atomic power reactors and other sources throughout the world. Experts have warned that terrorists who obtained such material could use it to make nuclear or radiological weapons.
He said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham of the United States would travel to the atomic agency's headquarters in Vienna this month to announce details of the program.
Jeanne Lopatto, spokeswoman for the Energy Department, confirmed that the administration was developing a plan to "accelerate and expand efforts to secure and remove high-risk nuclear and radiological materials.''
Dr. ElBaradei said Mr. Bush and he had also agreed on the need to supplement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the main treaty that seeks to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, and to strengthen both the agency's ability to inspect suspect nuclear facilities and international controls on sales of nuclear technology. Both agreed, he added, on the need to penalize states that opt out of the treaty after acquiring nuclear equipment under the guise of a peaceful program.
He said there was further agreement on the need to find a way to deny countries that refuse to sign the treaty, or those that are suspected of cheating on it, access to technology that enriches uranium or reprocesses fuel that has been used in peaceful nuclear reactors. Such material can also be used in nuclear bombs.
Although he said Mr. Bush and he had disagreed about "some approaches and specific proposals," he said he was struck by the substantial degree of agreement about the need for urgent reform. This assertion by Dr. ElBaradei, an Egyptian citizen who studied law in New York, surprised several who heard the speech, given previous tensions between the atomic agency and the administration over the invasion of Iraq and over charges by some in the administration that the agency has been too tolerant of nuclear cheating and other treaty violations by member nations like Iran.
Dr. ElBaradei said that his agency was not ready to state that Iran was not using its peaceful nuclear program to acquire nuclear weapons, but that Tehran was now cooperating more fully with his agency than it had in the past. In a brief telephone interview after his speech, he said that although he expected to receive a "good deal of information" from Iran in the next two weeks, he did not know whether Iran would clear up questions about its nuclear program in time for his agency's board of governors meeting in June.
He said that while Iran had the technology to enrich uranium, he had no proof that such uranium had been processed to a level adequate to make a nuclear bomb.
"We will close the file when we have dealt with all the issues that require to be investigated," he said.
Iran has been pressing the monitoring agency to state that it does not have a nuclear weapons program, while the Bush administration has been pushing the agency to go to the Security Council with a resolution to punish Tehran for withholding information about its nuclear activities.
Dr. ElBaradei also said North Korea's announcement that it was withdrawing from the nuclear weapons treaty posed one of the most significant challenges to international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. He expressed disappointment that the United Nations Security Council had failed to act against North Korea in connection with over a decade of the agency's complaints about that country's nuclear activities. The Council's lack of action, he said "has not been optimum."
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Dr. ElBaradei's remarks reflected the growing recognition that the nonproliferation system that had served the world well during the cold war was now unraveling. "There's a consensus that something needs to be done," he said. "But there's not yet consensus on what needs to be done."
Iran is Unlikely to Hang Dissident Aghajari-Lawyer
May 15, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iranian reformist academic Hashem Aghajari, whose death sentence for blasphemy in 2002 led to mass protests, is unlikely to be executed although a provincial court has upheld the sentence, his lawyer said on Saturday.
"The death sentence will definitely be quashed by the Supreme Court, if legal principles are taken into account," Aghajari's lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told Reuters.
Iranian newspapers on Saturday reported Zekrollah Ahmadi, judiciary chief in the western province of Hamadan where the sentence was reviewed, as saying Aghajari's case had been sent to the Supreme Court although no appeal had been lodged.
Aghajari himself has refused to appeal against the sentence, effectively challenging the hardline judiciary to hang him for saying Muslims should not blindly follow senior clerics "like monkeys."
Shi'ite Muslims have to follow the decrees of senior clerics. By debating this point Aghajari, a history lecturer, questioned the entire system of clerical rule.
Students staged mass protests when Aghajari's sentence was first handed down in November 2002, prompting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to call for a review of the case.
A provincial judge in Hamadan, carrying out the review, insisted on the death sentence in a closed-door session.
Some 600 people gathered on Tuesday at Tehran University to criticize the hardline judiciary's treatment of Aghajari, who lost a leg in the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
His death sentence has been widely denounced in Iran, even by some Islamic conservatives who said it was a gift to reformists and Iran's Western enemies.
In a rare direct criticism this month, pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami condemned Aghajari's "unjust death sentence" and said the judge who issued it was "inexperienced."
End in Sight for Iranian Film Mocking Clerics
May 15, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran is going to take a hit movie mocking clerics off cinema screens by Friday, the film's producer Manouchehr Mohammadi was quoted as saying on the official IRNA news agency on Saturday.
"The Lizard" follows the fortunes of a thief who escapes prison by donning the turban and robes of Iran's clerical elite. Ironically, he proves a crowd-pleaser as a preacher.
"This film is going to be taken off screens gradually by the end of this week," Mohammadi was quoted as saying.
The film, which had a contract to run for 11 weeks from April 21, has packed cinemas across the Islamic Republic. Mohammadi said it had grossed just under $1 million in Tehran alone.
But hard-liners have sharply criticized it. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati -- head of the Guardian Council, an unelected constitutional watchdog with sweeping powers -- said recently the movie was a "bad influence and should be banned."
Worshippers in the cities of Shiraz and Hamadan heard prayer leaders attacking the film in sermons on Friday. It has already been banned in cities of Mashhad, Rasht and the seminary center of Qom.
"Those who oppose 'The Lizard' do not want cinema to exist as a modern medium. They want cinema to be down at heel," Mohammadi told reporters. "They are worried about films that make good money and the existence of brave and effective audience-based cinema," he added.
Strategists Call For Israeli Strikes Against Expanding WMD Threat
May 14, 2004
TEL AVIV -- Leading strategists in Israel have proposed preemptive strikes against the expanding threat posed by weapons of mass destruction arsenals in the Middle East.
A report, entitled "Israel's Strategic Future," called such strikes an option in preventing the formation of a WMD coalition. The report said the Jewish state has been threatened by a biological or nuclear first-strike that seeks to exploit Israel's small space and high population density.
"To meet its ultimate deterrence objectives that is, to deter the most overwhelmingly destructive enemy first-strikes Israel must seek and achieve a visible second-strike capability to target approximately 15 enemy cities," the report, presented to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said.
The report marked the last phase of Project Daniel, sponsored by the Ariel Center for Strategic Studies, part of the College of Judea and Samaria. The contributors to the report included [Res.] Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, the former director of research and development at Israel's military and Defense Ministry, Middle East Newsline reported.
The report also urged the Israeli military to reduce the priority assigned to conventional warfare without impairing its superiority over any enemy coalition. The report said Israeli strategy must be revised to address the expanding threats from what it termed terrorism and long-range WMD attacks.
One option, the report said, would be to target an enemy WMD regime.
"The tools for preemptive operations would be novel, diverse and purposeful; for example, long-range aircraft with appropriate support for derived missions; long-range high-level intervention ground forces; long-endurance intelligence-collection systems; long-endurance unmanned air-strike platforms," the report said.
"Ranges would be to cities in Libya and Iran, and recognizable nuclear bomb yields would be at a level sufficient to fully compromise the aggressor's viability as a functioning state. All enemy targets should be selected with the view that their destruction would promptly force the enemy to cease all nuclear/biological/chemical exchanges with Israel."
The report called on Israel to operate a multi-layered ballistic missile defense system as well as establish a second-strike capability. Such a missile defense should include a Boost Phase Intercept capability as well as enhanced real-time intelligence acquisition, interpretation and transmission.
The report said that despite the prospect of a WMD attack, the principal existential threat to Israel was a conventional war mounted by a coalition of Arab states along with Iran. But such a war, the report said, could be facilitated by the development of WMD and result in nonconventional weapons strikes against the Jewish state.
"Irrespective of its policy on nuclear ambiguity vs. disclosure, Israel will not be able to endure unless it continues to maintain a credible, secure and decisive nuclear deterrent alongside a multi-layered anti-missile defense," the report said.
The report said advanced weaponry would enable Israel to reduce its defense expenditure while enhancing effectiveness and lethality in conventional warfare. The report cited the need for increased weapons range, precision, warhead efficiency; electronic warfare, reduced infrared and radio frequency signatures.
The report also stressed the need for real time tactical and strategic intelligence within a command, control, communications, computer and intelligence [C4I] system. The technologies cited to combat strategic threats included ballistic missile defense, early-warning satellites, combat unmanned air vehicles and deep-strike forces.
"There is no operational need for low-yield nuclear weapons geared for actual battlefield use," the report said. "There is no point in spreading and raising costs Israel's effort on low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons given the multifaceted asymmetry between Israel and its adversaries."
Israel must also maintain its policy of refusing to acknowledge nuclear capability, the report said. The report said such a policy should be revised in the future if an enemy state turns nuclear.
The report asserted that the development of an Arab and Iranian nuclear weapons program required 20 years while that of a long-range missile would need 12 years. But once development is completed, the report said, the production and acquisition of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles would entail a short process. Any country could build an arsenal of 100 atomic bombs within four years of the assembly of its first nuclear weapon.
"Israel will have to maximize its long-range, accurate, real-time strategic intelligence," the report said. "Israel will have to maximize the credibility of its second-strike capability. Israel will have to develop, test, manufacture and deploy a BPI [Boost Phase Intercept] capability to match the operational requirements dictated by enemy ballistic missile capacities -- performance and numbers."
The report also called on Israel to deploy recoverable and non-recoverable stealth UAVs to suppress enemy air defenses, electronic warfare, intelligence-gathering and strikes. The military was also urged to develop a second-strike land or sea nuclear capability.
To finance such an effort, Israel must cooperate with the United States, make better use of U.S. military aid and eliminate obstacles to U.S.-Israel defense trade. One option was for Israel to consider revising its defense strategy to account for an expanded U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
The report urged Israel to seek U.S. cooperation for a joint BPI project, something the Defense Department has refused. Another option was for the United States to "participate technologically and financially in Israel's multi-layered missile defense efforts as fully as possible."
Commemorators beaten up by security forces
SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 14, 2004
Tens of commemorators were beaten up and several of them arrested by the Islamic regime forces, yesterday, in the Niavaran Park of Tehran. Those subject to this brutal intervention were intending to pay tribute to Soosan, a deceased exiled popular singer, who passed away in Los Angles (California) few days ago.
Clubs and chains were used against the commemorators who, in retaliation, shouted slogans against the regime and its forces and thrown pieces of stones and hand made incendiary devices against the security vehicles. The clashes continued in this usually calm area of Tehran till the late hours of night.
Soosan was known for her opposition to the Islamic regime and advocacy for Iranian poors. She was cherisheed in the poor suburbs of Tehran and main Iranian cities and was qualified as the "Singer of the Deseherited".