Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- May 31, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 05/30/2004 9:13:20 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. Most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
Iran Won't Cooperate With US on Iraq
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran yesterday ruled out any cooperation with the United States in its occupation of neighboring Iraq, and demanded that any new Iraqi government be given "full sovereignty".
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi refused to say if the Islamic republic, which recognizes the US-appointed interim Governing Council, will also offer recognition to the new caretaker government due to take power by June 30.
He also complained that a US-British draft resolution on Iraq being considered by the UN Security Council contained "a number of ambiguities".
"There is no question of any cooperation between Iran and the United States in Iraq," Asefi told reporters.
"Iran does not want to cooperate with an occupying force which now commits barbaric acts against holy sites," he said, referring to US military operations in the cities of Karbala and Najaf.
Asefi refused to spell out Iran's diplomatic position following the handover, but added "what is important is that Iraq has total sovereignty and that the occupiers leave as soon as possible."
Tehran Warns IAEA
Iran warned the UN nuclear watchdog yesterday not to put too much pressure on Tehran lest its rulers end their cooperation altogether.
"Iran is still bound by its commitments," Asefi told reporters. "There is no sign from our side that we will question our cooperation, but the agency should not create an atmosphere that pushes our leadership to doubt this cooperation," he cautioned.
His comments came two weeks before the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to again examine Iran's dossier amid ongoing suspicions that Iran is using a bid to generate nuclear power as a cover for secret weapons development.
Meanwhile, Iran has lodged an official complaint with Jordan after Farah Diba, the widow of the ousted Iranian shah, was invited to the wedding of Crown Prince Hamza, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.
Iran Offers 20% Stake in its Oil Field to India
May 31, 2004
The Financial Express
NEW DELHI -- In a move which will fetch the country 60,000 barrels of oil per day, Iran has offered 20 per cent equity to India in its Kushk-Husseinieh oil field. This is a semi-discovered oil field in Iran and is expected to produce 3,00,000 barrels of oil a day.
ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), the nodal agency for persuing upstream activities in Iran, will do a detailed evaluation of this offer.
Alongside, India will shortly finalise the sales and purchase agreement for importing 5 million tonne per annum of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Iran. GAIL (India), the lead agency for negotiating LNG imports, has already held three rounds of talks with the National Iranian Gas Exporting Company (NIGEC) on the term sheet for LNG SPA. A 20 per cent equity participation of GAIL in the LNG project is also being discussed with NIGEC.
Officials disclosed that discussions on these issues took place last week between petroleum secretary, BK Chaturvedi and a senior Iranian minister during their visit to Amsterdam for attending the 9th International Energy Forum. A high level government-to-government meeting is now expected to take place in June end to finalise details of the Indo-Iran co-operation in the oil and gas sector.
Back home, a high level meeting was called by Mr Chaturvedi on Friday where co-operation with Iran in areas of exploration, LNG imports and petrochemicals was discussed. Present at the meeting were IOC chairman and managing director MS Ramachandran, GAIL CMD Proshanto Banerjee, OVL MD R Butola and senior petroleum ministry officials.
According to officials, GAIL has informed the ministry that a pricing formula for LNG imports has already been worked out among the working groups and the GSA is expected to be signed between GAIL and NIGEC in the next two months.
Indications are that the price negotiated with the Iranians for LNG is around 30 per cent cheaper than price of imported LNG from Qatar. This will create a tough gas-to-gas competition between RasGas, Shell and Reliance on the west coast, a senior ministry official said.
It may be noted here that under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between India and Iran, during the visit of President Khatami to India in January 2003, it was agreed that while India will buy LNG (5 million tonnes per annum in Phase I) from Iran, the latter will offer suitable discovered/semi-discovered oil fields to India on nomination basis.
The petroleum ministry had, however, expressed concerns over the fact that not much progress has been made by the Iranians in offering suitable discovered and semi-discovered oil fields to India. It was noted in the last review meeting taken by secretary petroleum on March 18, 2004 that in September 2003, the Iranian side had offered three discovered/semi-discoverd fields including Cheshmeh Khosh, Parsi and North Azadegan to OVL along with a possible participation in four exploration blocks.
On studying the data provided, while the North Azadegan field was not found worth pursuing, OVL found Chesmeh Khosh and Parsi to be worth pursuing further. The same was conveyed to the Iranians in January 2004.
However, OVL later lear that the development of the Cheshmeh Khosh field has been entrusted to a subsidiary of National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Considering the risk capital involved, Parsi field on stand alone basis was not considered worth pursuing further.
Then again at the end of November 2003, an Iranian high level official indicated at a meeting convened by the ministry of external affairs in Delhi that the Iranian side was willing to offer 40 per cent interest in South Azadegan to OVL for which the latter conveyed its interest for participating in this project. The matter, however, could not be pursued further as NIOC later signed the field development contract for this field with a Japanese consortium, as per the recorded minutes of the review meeting.
Excerpts From an Interview With John Kerry on Diplomacy and Defense
New York Times - Excerpts From Interview
May 30, 2004
Following are excerpts from an interview Friday with Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:
On President Bush's focus on Iraq to the exclusion of North Korea and Iran, which he describes as "more compelling threats":
"This administration has been almost myopic in its view on Iraq itself, to the exclusion of those things that are necessary to in fact make the world safer. I think that this administration is high on rhetoric and high on ideology and low on actual strategic thinking and truth. And the fact is that they have broken alliances across the planet that have served us well for years, they've left our reputation in tatters. There's no one who deals with the global community who doesn't understand the degree to which we've isolated ourselves, and I think we're less safe because of that."
On negotiating with hostile powers:
"We have to be more artful in seeing what they see, not just thinking about it from our point of view. War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy; or use of force is the ultimate failure of diplomacy. But I know the difference between when you've really tried to give meaning to the words `last resort' and when you haven't."
On comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam:
"Sure, there are increasing similarities. It's never been Vietnam. It's not Vietnam. It doesn't have to be. But there are growing similarities. Whether or not it becomes that is truly up to this administration and the leadership over the course of the next months."
On the possibility that a new Iraqi government would push American forces from the country:
"There's an enormous crapshoot in the approach of this administration on this, which is not exactly the best way to be approaching something like this. Which is why I am saying that as president I would want to be proceeding from the greatest position of strength. I would want to be proceeding from the best prospects of success in the mission. And the best prospects of success and the greatest position of strength come from a maximum number of countries on the ground and involved, and come from a maximum share in local responsibility. None of which this administration has yet embraced or truly pushed for."
On America's role in the world:
"I think it's an insult that when the world is twice as large as it was in the cold war, I mean half the world was shut to us during the cold war, the Peace Corps is smaller today than it was when President Kennedy started it. That tells you a lot.
"Our budget today for foreign policy, for everything we do for drugs, for embassies, for foreign commercial service, for all of our efforts, including foreign aid is smaller than it was under Ronald Reagan in 1986. We need some leadership to project our country into the world in a way that shows our values and our ideas and restores our influence and reputation. I think this administration has taken us to a low point unlike anything that I've seen in the entire time I've been in public life."
On nuclear containment and Russia's missile stores:
"I mean either this is deadly serious, or it's not. Now when you sit with any expert they'll tell you it's the most serious thing in the world. Well if it is, why aren't we treating it as if it were? And we're not. There's bureaucratic hassles with Putin now. There's been a complete inattention. This wasn't even on the agenda of the last meeting of our president and President Putin. Not even on the agenda to talk about the nuclear reduction, that threat. That's not serious when only 22 percent has been contained. I'm going to make it serious. It's going to be the top priority."
IRGC Commander Warns Iraq's Occupiers of "Divine" Wrath
Tehran Times - Politics Section
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- An Iranian IRGC Commander has invoked historical facts to say that Iraq's occupiers, riding roughshod over Shi'ite sanctities, will be struck down by the divine wrath.
"History has shown that the haughty and ignorant bullies, who are unaware of divine blessing to holy graves, will be struck down by the divine wrath and Muslim nations," said head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Rahim Safavi.
The United States has sent troops as well as tanks into the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala, sparking bloody clashes with forces loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, which have taken their toll also at the holy quarters.
The two cities, home to the shrines of the Master of the Faithful, Imam Ali, and his son Imam Hussein, are among the most holy places for Shiite Muslims.
Exchange of gunfire in Najaf recently damaged the golden dome of Imam Ali's holy shrine.
Safavi recalled the sacrilege of holy sites by the former Soviet tsars after their invasion of Iran during the World War I.
"We have seen that several years later, the tsar dynasty was murdered at the hands of Bolsheviks and even their children were not spared," he said.
"Americans must know that the holy shrine of the Master of the Faithful and Imam Hussein (AS) are respected by the Islamic nations and world Shiite Muslims and disrespect for such places will draw the anger and fury of the world Muslims," Safavi added.
"The ignorant and bullying government of America has adopted a policy of confrontation with the Islamic world by aggressing Afghanistan and Iraq as well as backing the occupying regime of Al-Quds.
"This policy will stir up the hatred of more than one billion Muslims," he said.
Iran has strongly condemned U.S. forces for entering the Iraqi cities of Kerbala and Najaf and warned the United States of the 'consequences' of breaching the sanctity of holy places.
"The sacrilege of holy sites is not acceptable at all," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said recently.
"The American government naturally has to bear the consequences of such actions," he added.
"American actions all across Iraq are not acceptable, but there is added sensitivity when this comes to Najaf and Kerbala because of the presence of holy quarters and houses of eminent sources of religious reference," Asefi said.
Two British Trade Missions Arrive in Tehran
Tehran Times - Economy Section
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- Two British trade missions arrived in Tehran in order to conduct meetings with ranking Iranian officials, businessmen and industry leaders.
A trade delegation from Wales arrived in Tehran Friday, 28 May, for a five-day mission. The visit is sponsored by Wales Trade International, which has been created to be a major driving force in helping Welsh companies establish themselves in overseas markets, and forge business alliances with counterparts worldwide.
WTI offers focused and coordinated support to Welsh companies in order to help them develop their export skills, identify potential trade partners, and grasp the many opportunities available to them internationally.
A mission form the London-based British Iranian Chamber of Commerce arrived in Tehran on Sunday. They are due to be in Iran from 30 May to 4 June. Lord Lamont of Lerwick and Lord Phillips of Sudbury are leading the Mission. During their visit, they aim to raise the profile of United Kingdom trade relations with Iran, to encourage closer commercial and economic relations between Britain and Iran and to further UK foreign direct investment in Iran. The Mission also hopes to provide further advice on how to increase Iranian exports to the United Kingdom.
I had thought you were, but you certainly picked up a love of the Iranian people somewhere.
The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
And may that day come swiftly. The one thing I would love to see is the Iranians (Persians) establish a free government without any outside troops - or those crazy mullahs - involved.
and also, the world needs to understand the joy of fessen joon.
free iran indeed.
And whats it?
The picture says it all. Cheers to the brave forces of the coalition of the willing...
The Persian Key
May 30, 2004
by Bruce Walker
Men's News Daily
While we look at Iraq or at Gaza and worry about peace, it would be wiser to look east of those lands where the prospect for genuine and benign peace has seldom been greater. One quarter of the human race lives in the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian plains within those nations we call India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Iran.
Two planet has seven which have publicly announced nuclear powers or are considered immediately - America, Russia, China, Britain and France - are four nations which are considered almost certainly to posses such weapons - Israel, South Africa, India and Pakistan. Only two of those nations have fought wars since 1970, and those two are India and Pakistan.
When the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan, these goons committed intentionally provocative acts like destroying ancient Buddhist sites and persecuting religious minorities, which included not only Hindu, but Buddhist, Sikh and Zoroastrian minorities, each of which live in relative freedom in India.
When America removed the Taliban and introduced a moderate, tolerant government in its place, that dramatically reduced the pressure on neighboring Pakistan to support anti-Hindu and anti-Indian policies. Our constant pursuit of al-Qaida and bin Ladin also weakens the power of these bad people to commit terrorism in India.
India now has its first Sikh Prime Minister, which creates a real window of opportunity for Pakistan and India to mend fences. Sikhism combines elements of both Islam and Hinduism, and as minorities who have sometimes suffered discrimination in India by the Hindu majority, they have no interest in Hindu nationalism.
Both these developments - routing of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and the rise of a non-Hindu to power in India - help those who want Pakistan to be peaceful, neutral, tolerant, free and open. There is another piece of the geopolitical puzzle which could make the victory of peace and freedom complete.
Persia is a very ancient land with a very sophisticated and influential culture. Persian ideas, art, philosophy and literature is vastly underrated in the West, because so much of it we assume is our culture. The Parsees of India, who have traditionally been the most successful and most "Westernized" (in our terms) were Zoroastrians from Persia who fled to India, primarily a section of Bombay.
The Persian people have chafed for a quarter of a century under a corrupt and theocratic thugacracy incomparably worse than the worst excesses of the Shah. The people of Iran do not hate the United States at all, although their leaders hate us with a fierce passion. As we discover an increasingly closer connection between bin Ladin, al-Qaida, terrorism in post-war Iraq and Iran, America may decide to help the people of Iran gain their freedom early.
If that happens, then the situation in Iraq will improve almost overnight. First, because the Shia who are unhappy now in Iraq will have to contend with the opinions of the much larger Shia population of Iran which is delighted with America. Second, because this would horrify Syria and other troublemakers.
The liberation of Iran would also mean that Pakistan would have the third troubling border pacified and it would be surrounded by nations who wanted peaceful, tolerant and prosperous futures. The ripples of that could be profound.
Those former Soviet Socialist Republics of Kazakstan, Uzebistan, Kirghiz, and Tajikistan have long secular histories from Communism, but very strong historical ties to Persian culture. If that great Persian heritage was used to bring these nations more firmly into the family of civilized and friendly nations, then the whole configuration of power and of sentiment in Central Asia would change.
That means good intentioned people in Russia and China would have a much easier time moving their nations toward peace and freedom as well. The ripples would reach Pyongyang, Damascus, Ankara, Hanoi and Rangoon.
Two pieces of the three piece puzzle are in place: moderate and tolerant leaders now rule India and Afghanistan. The last piece, the decisive victory, will be in the liberation of Iran. To quote Michael Ledeen, who writes on this subject often: "Faster please." Amen
placemarker for later
fessen joon is a wonderful wonderful dish, made from pomigranites (anar) and sometimes chicken. it is just delicious. actually theres a few good iranian dishes.
LoL., You are making me hungry!
natural consequences of such actions ARE:
1- Sending Suicide Bombing Units deep into Iraq
2- Terrorizing America by basless speeches ( One by Hassan Abbasi )
3- Supporting International Terrorism in Afghanistan & Iraq to kill our brave troops
You may be able to name some more!
We have asked nothing in return, and that is exactly what we have gotten. Not gratitude, not rememberance, even in Iraq some are demanding that we give them money faster rather than being grateful for their freedom.
Sorry, not in a good mood tonight. I am remembering my own sacrifice.
I will be happy to hear about your own sacrifice!
Detour to Iran now Bush's main road
May 31st, 2004
By Stanley Weiss
THE road to Tehran, US neo-conservatives argued before the invasion of Iraq, goes through Baghdad. First, liberate Iraq, then Iran. But more than a year into the US-led occupation, it is clear that the road to a stable Iraq runs through Tehran.
The theocrats of the Islamic republic can turn the US mission in Iraq into a dream or a nightmare. The dream is that Washington and Tehran end 25 years of hostility and co-operate on Iraq.
In this scenario, Iran and the US work together, as they did in post-Taliban Afghanistan, to promote economic reconstruction and fashion a broad-based government.
Tehran as a champion for a democratic, prosperous Iraq? In fact, democratic elections will empower Iraq's majority Shi'ites, Iran's religious brethren. A federal Iraq will prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdistan that would incite Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria. A prosperous Iraq is more likely to repay Tehran reparations owed from the Iran-Iraq war.
Then there's the nightmare: hardline clerics in Tehran treating Iraqi instability as an opportunity to export Islamic revolution. Iran's powerful former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said recently of US forces in Iraq: "They know that if Iran wanted to, it could make their problems even worse."
US officials in Baghdad already point to "unhelpful" Iranian behaviour. Before unleashing his two-month-long revolt, which finally ended with a truce last week, radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr met military leaders in Tehran.
Iran's Republican Guards trained and armed the 10,000-strong Badr Brigade, the now dormant military wing of Iraq's largest Shi'ite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Will Iraq be a stage for Iranian-US co-operation or confrontation? Realists on both sides constantly flirt with dialogue.
After the devastating earthquake in Iran in December, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "We should keep open the possibility of dialogue."
Even as he warned of undermining the US in Iraq, the ever nimble Rafsanjani said: "For me, talking is not a problem."
But ideologues on both sides constantly undermine any rapprochement.A British diplomat summed up the attitude of the Bush administration's neo-conservatives during the build-up to the Iraq war: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called US attacks on Sadr's forces in Shi'ite holy cities "shameful" and has labelled talks with Washington "treason and stupidity".
Given the stakes in Iraq, what is the best way to ensure that common interests trump outdated ideology? How can the realists on both sides come together?
Seize the moment. For the first time in two decades, Washington can act from a position of unquestioned strength. With US forces to its east in Afghanistan and west in Iraq, the US is Iran's newest neighbour and cannot be ignored.
The real battle in the Islamic republic is no longer between conservatives and the reformers who were sidelined in the phony election in February. It is among the conservatives themselves.
Religious zealots still chant "Death to America" but pragmatists such as Rafsanjani can bargain with Washington without being labelled as traitors.
With Iran perhaps less than a year from acquiring a nuclear weapon, there is not a moment to lose. Be bold. For years, Washington and Tehran have expressed a willingness to talk, but only after the other moves first -- the US lifting sanctions and ending its threat of "regime change"; Iran ending its support for terrorism, its nuclear ambitions and its opposition to Arab-Israeli peace.
It's time to call Tehran's bluff. If president Richard Nixon could go to China and president Ronald Reagan could go to the Soviet Union, President George W. Bush can go to Iran, and should announce his willingness to do so.
Taking the initiative with Tehran would show wavering US voters that the bold wartime President can also be a courageous peacetime diplomat.
Imagine the possibilities. The Iranian people, frustrated with their despotic rulers and favouring ties and trade with the US, would rejoice. Americans opposed to ties with Iran may howl. But what is there to lose?
The offer would put Khamenei and his extremist mullahs in a bind. Accept and they lose the Great Satan as a scapegoat. Decline and they are exposed as intransigents.
Invite the neighbours. From Tehran, Bush should go to Baghdad for an international summit meeting on the future of Iraq. The UN envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, is reportedly considering such a conference under UN auspices. Since they all have a vital interest in a united Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia should be invited to attend.
It took US forces just 21 days to travel the road to Baghdad. The return trip with a stable, peaceful Iraq in the rearview mirror is taking much longer, and that road will run through Tehran. For Americans, this is a road less travelled. But it may well make all the difference.
International Herald Tribune
Stanley A. Weiss is chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a non-partisan group based in Washington DC.
Fesson Joon is a great dish. I had Gormeh Sabzi tonight, always welcome in my home for some.
Mullah Karroubi appointed advisor to Iran so-called supreme leader
may 31st 2004
The former reformist speaker of the Iranian parliament, Mehdi Karoubi, has been given new posts as advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and member of a top political oversight body, state media said Sunday.
The reports cited Karoubi's "performance and achievements" as head of the rowdy reformist parliament, which was handed to conservatives after most pro-reform candidates were barred from contesting February elections.
Karoubi, although approved to stand, lost his seat in polls that saw allies of embattled reformist President Mohammad Khatami routed from the legislature.
In addition to being named an advisor to Khamenei, Karoubi was also named as a member of the Expediency Council -- a body designed to arbitrate between the parliament and the unelected 12-member Guardians' Council, a powerful hardline-run vetting body.
The Expediency Council, which has close to 40 members, is headed by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Karoubi had previously sat on the Expediency Council as head of the parliament.
Although himself a reformer, Karoubi spent much of his tenure as speaker attempting to calm the anger of reformist deputies over the blocking of legislation by the Guardians.
A mid-ranking cleric, Karoubi also refused to join calls for a boycott of the February polls.
Excellent article. Thanks for posting it.
Iran Makes its First Anti-Ship Missile
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran has begun manufacturing its first locally made anti-ship missile, a "kind of cruise missile" named the Kosar, the state-run news agency IRNA reported.
Quoting the Islamic republic's defense ministry, the report said the missile is being made by Iran's Aerospace Industries Organisation and has been "designed for defensive purposes".
According to the report, the new missile can target its goals in three different positions as coast to sea, sea to sea and air to sea, and has been designed to be either televised or radar guided.
"The new missile has been designed according to geographical specifications of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman," the report added, without specifying its range.
"Kosar" is a Koranic term referring to a river of eternal life in paradise.
Iranian Judiciary Quashes Death Sentence on Dissident
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran's Supreme Court has decided to quash a death sentence on dissident intellectual Hashem Aghajari and will announce the decision shortly, the Iranian student news agency ISNA reported Monday.
The agency, which has been well informed on the Aghajari case, did not provide a source in its report and added that officials in the hardline-controlled judiciary were so far refusing to confirm the news.
Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran University and a disabled war veteran, was convicted of blasphemy by a judge in Hamedan in November 2002 for calling for a reformation in Iran's state Shiite Muslim religion.
He also said Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" religious leaders, an assertion that the court saw as a direct challenge to the Shiite concept of emulation and the status of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The verdict sparked protests in Iran and abroad, and Khamenei demanded it be reviewed.
In January 2003, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial but the same judge in Hamedan recently confirmed his previous sentence.
Khamenei has again ordered a review of the case, and was quoted by a justice official as saying Aghajari's remarks "cannot be characterised as apostasy and are not liable to the death penalty".
Turkish Court Opens Istanbul Suicide Bomb Trial
May 31, 2004
Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL -- A Turkish court Monday began hearing the mammoth case of 69 people charged with involvement in last November's devastating suicide bombings in Istanbul, which have been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
It was set to be Turkey's highest profile trial since the 1999 conviction of Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan and will be closely watched internationally amid security concerns ahead of next month's NATO summit in the city.
In one of modern Turkey's worst weeks of peacetime violence, the four truck bombs killed 61 people and wounded more than 600 in attacks directed at two synagogues, the British consulate and the local headquarters of London-based bank HSBC.
Twelve defendants, flanked by security officers, looked on sullenly as they appeared in the Istanbul State Security Court. All the accused are due to attend the court by June 4 in a case which immediately presented a legal dilemma.
Lawyers for most of the defendants told the court they were advising their clients against testifying because in their view the court no longer had the authority to try the case.
Turkey's president this month approved EU-inspired constitutional amendments including the abolition of the state security courts, which handle political and "terrorism" prosecutions as well as corruption and organized crime cases.
The Aksam daily newspaper reported Justice Minister Cemil Cicek as saying a law establishing new criminal courts would be passed within a fortnight. Any proceedings conducted before then could be repeated in the new courts, he said.
The 12 accused, nearly all in their 20s and 30s and married with children, first identified themselves in court. Among them were five suspected ringleaders in the bombings, named as Adnan Ersoz, Yusuf Polat, Harun Ilhan, Baki Yigit and Fevzi Yitiz.
A 128-page indictment in February said five defendants would face charges carrying life sentences for "trying to change the constitutional order by force," with the recommendation that they be detained until they die.
The remaining 64 could face jail terms of between 4-1/2 and 22-1/2 years for charges including membership of or assisting an illegal group.
The indictment said a Turkish representative of al Qaeda masterminded the bombings, with funding from operatives in Europe and Iran.
Police in Turkey's biggest city are preparing an extensive security operation ahead of the NATO summit, to include President Bush, being held in the city on June 28-29.
A series of small-scale blasts in Istanbul and the capital Ankara have kept nerves on edge since last November's attacks.
A freemason's lodge in Istanbul was targeted in a suicide bombing in March, killing one of two bombers and a waiter.
Anatolian news agency said Sunday authorities were questioning four far-left suspects in connection with a car bombing at a McDonald's restaurant in Istanbul this month which caused damage but no casualties.
Four small bombs also exploded outside Turkish HSBC branches this month ahead of a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but no one was hurt.
Iran Watchdog Approves Division Of Province
May 31, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran's constitutional watchdog has approved a bill to carve up the country's biggest province, a proposal that has ignited violent clashes in the past, local newspapers reported today.
Iran's former reformist parliament voted last month to split the northeastern Khorasan province into three to allow more equitable budget allocation and prevent the regional capital Mashhad from absorbing the lion's share of state money.
The hardline Guardian Council watchdog, which has the power to veto any legislation it deems unconstitutional or un-Islamic, rejected the proposal earlier this month. But parliament re-submitted it after making some changes.
''The parliament has amended the legislation to address the Council's objections,'' Reza Zavvarei, deputy head of the Guardian Council, was quoted as saying by the Sharq daily newspaper.
Guardian Council officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dozens were injured and scores arrested in clashes in 2001 and 2002 in Khorasan, which borders Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, when parliament previously discussed dividing the province.
There have been no reports of protests during the debates on splitting the province up this year.
Some residents fear they will lose influence and shares of the budget when rival cities become new regional capitals. The saffron-growing province has many strong tribal loyalties.