Iran mullah-run judiciary bans two pro-reform newspapers
Jul 17, 2004, 20:38
Iran's mullah-run judiciary on Saturday ordered two pro-reform newspapers to close temporarily. The bans on Jomhuriat and Vaghay-e-Ettefaghieh were to be temporary, but it wasn't clear when exactly they would be allowed to resume publishing. In the past, newspapers generally have not reappeared after temporary bans.
Vaghay-e-Ettefaghieh was ordered closed for publishing propaganda against the state, insulting officials and publishing lies aimed at disturbing public opinion, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. It did not give details.
Vahid Pourostad, a member of the paper's editorial board, told The Associated Press the ban had taken him by surprise. He said he did not know exactly why his paper was shut down.
Newspaper executives at Jomhuriat could not be reached for comment Saturday night and office phones went unanswered
Regime change in Iran now in Bushs sights
By Jenifer Johnston
PRESIDENT George Bush has promised that if re-elected in November he will make regime change in Iran his new target.
Bush named Iran as part of the Axis of Evil along with North Korea and Iraq almost three years ago. A US government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that military action would not be overt in changing Iran, but rather that the US would work to stir revolts in the country and hope to topple the current conservative religious leadership.
The official said: If George Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran.
The Iranian government announced this weekend that it had successfully eradicated all al-Qaeda cells operating in the country, but the statement comes as leaked reports from the US September 11 Commission show definite links between Iran and the September 11 terrorists.
The final report from the cross-party inquiry, which is examining the origins of the September 11 attacks, is believed to contain concrete evidence of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iran.
Time magazine reports that at least eight of the hijackers, who lived in the US for months before the attacks, passed through Iran between October 2000 and February 2001 apparently with help from the Iranian authorities.
Known al-Qaeda members also seem to have been allowed to cross in and out of Iran freely across the Afghan border, with Iranian border guards being told not to stamp the passports of al-Qaeda operatives, harass them or hinder their ability to travel freely.
The report is thought to hint that Iranian officials were ordered to assist al-Qaeda operatives with any travel needs.
The September 11 Commission report will, however, stop short of stating that Iran was aware of the plans for the September 11 attacks.
Tehran has always officially denied helping members of al-Qaeda escape from Afghan istan in 2001 when the Taliban regime fell.
State television in Iran yesterday showed the countrys intelligence minister announcing the capture of a number of al-Qaeda supporters.
Ali Yunesi said: Irans intelligence apparatus has identified and arrested small Iranian deviate branches of the al-Qaeda group. There was no clarification on how many people had been arrested or charged.
Yunesi warned that Iran would take a tough line against militants using Iran as a base. Those who seek to misuse the safe situation in Iran will face serious consequences, he said.
The Iranian government says it has arrested and repatriated hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects in the past two years in a display of willingness to bring terrorism in the Middle East under control.
A suspected Saudi al-Qaeda militant, Khaled al-Harbi, who appeared in a videotape with Osama bin Laden, gave himself up in Iran last week, and was flown back to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
On Friday US officials said the next stage of the September 11 Commissions report would be available this week.
There was embarrassment for the Bush administration last week when it emerged a tight deadline was being pushed for the capture of Osama bin Laden to generate headlines during the Democratic Convention when presidential rival John Kerry will be grabbing the limelight.
Pakistani security forces have apparently been given deadlines to capture bin Laden that are before the US general election in November, according to US sources.
Facing fresh US allegations, Iran claims it has dismantled al-Qaeda groups
AFP - World News (via Yahoo)
Jul 17, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran's intelligence minister announced that his services had smashed al-Qaeda operations in the country, amid fresh allegations from the United States the clerical regime has been cooperating with Osama bin Laden's network.
"The intelligence ministry has identified and dismantled all the Iranian branches of the al-Qaeda movement," Ali Yunessi was quoted as saying.
"We have stopped the terrorist acts of al-Qaeda. If we had not done so, we would have had security problems," he added.
Yunessi gave no further details.
But his statement coincided with US media reports that the September 11 commission in Washington has concluded Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks on the United States by providing eight to 10 al-Qaeda hijackers with safe passage to and from training camps in Afghanistan.
Time and Newsweek, in similar reports quoting congressional, commission and government sources, said Iran relaxed border controls and provided "clean" passports for the so-called "muscle hijackers" to transit Iran to and from bin Laden's camps between October 2000 and February 2001.
The commission's report says Iran at one point proposed collaborating with al-Qaeda on attacks against America, but bin Laden declined, saying he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia, according to Time.
Time said commission investigators "found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border," a practice they said dated back to October 2000.
And Newsweek quoted former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke as saying "there were lots of reasons to believe (al-Qaeda) was being facilitated by elements of the Iranian security services. The best evidence we had of state support (for al-Qaeda) was Iran."
Iran has frequently been accused of harbouring and not cracking down on the group. Iran, which was hostile to Afghanistan's Taliban and Al-Qaeda, has fiercely denied allegations that it is supporting the group.
In 2003, Iran confirmed it was holding senior al-Qaeda members, but has refused to identify them.
Diplomatic sources and Arab press reports have pointed to the possible presence in Iran of the movement's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Gaith, and its number three, Saif al-Adel, as well as bin Laden's son and Al-Qaeda heir, Saad.
And in February, Spain's top anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon alleged Al-Qaeda had a "board of managers" operating in Iran.
But the Iranian government has responded by criticising what it sees as a failure by US troops in Iraq to crack down on the People's Mujahedeen, the main Iranian armed opposition group, which Washington considers a terrorist organisation.
It has said the detained group members could go on trial here, but that the process could take years.
Are Iran and Al Qaeda vying for influence in Yemen?
At least 200 dead in Yemeni battle against radicals.
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
BEIRUT, LEBANON - Could Yemen follow on the heels of Afghanistan and Iraq as the third major venue in the war on terrorism?
A bloody Islamist insurrection in the mountainous north which has cost more than 200 lives and a statement from an Al Qaeda group vowing to turn Yemen into a "quagmire" for the US would suggest that the remote country at the tip of the Arabian peninsula is gearing up for conflict.
But instead of an Al Qaeda campaign against the US and the Yemeni government, a conflict in Yemen may involve a power struggle between militant Sunnis and Iranian-backed Shiites, analysts say.
Al Qaeda despises the Shiite branch of Islam as much as it hates the US. Therefore, analysts say, Iran may back Shiite groups to counter the spread of Al Qaeda's influence in Yemen, which would threaten the country's traditionally moderate Zaidi Shiite population.
"I don't think Iran will allow Al Qaeda to set up a base in Yemen which could threaten the Zaidi Shiites," says Nizar Hamzeh, professor of politics at the American University of Beirut.
On July 1, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, an Al Qaeda affiliate, released a statement vowing "to drag the United States into a third quagmire, that is after Iraq and Afghanistan, and let it be Yemen, God willing." The brigade has previously claimed responsibility for the March 11 rail bombings in Madrid as well as numerous attacks in Turkey and Iraq.
With the US military presence in Yemen minimal it seems unlikely that Yemen would become a venue for the war on terror. However, Yemen is the most populated and poorest country in the Arabian peninsula, with unemployment as high as 40 percent, making it fertile recruiting ground for Al Qaeda.
In October 2000, a suicide bomb attack killed 17 US sailors and damaged the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. The same year, the oil supertanker Limburg was damaged in an attack thought to have been carried out by Al Qaeda just off the Yemeni coast.
"Thousands of jobless and hopeless Yemeni youths are an easy target for transnational and domestic extremist groups," says Abdullah al-Faqih, professor of politics at the University of Sana in Yemen. "Furthermore, Al Qaeda may also benefit from the Yemeni government's inability to effectively control some remote areas in the far north and in the long coastal area."
Yemen is a potentially convenient refuge for Al Qaeda militants fleeing a crackdown in Saudi Arabia. Large stretches of the Yemen-Saudi border remain undefined and run through desert and mountainous terrain. Still, the Saudi and Yemeni authorities have increased security cooperation, with the former laying a concrete-filled pipe along the frontier to impede illegal infiltration.
"More important, tribes along the borders have come to realize the heavy cost they may incur in case they harbor such elements" says Professor Faqih.
The Yemen government is sharing intelligence with the US, has expelled foreign Islamists, tightened up visa restrictions, and arrested militants.
At the end of June, authorities shut down all unregistered religious schools, seen as breeding grounds for Islamic militants. That decision appears to be connected connected to a violent insurrection waged for the past month in Saada, a mountainous northwest province. The revolt is led by Hussein al-Houthi, an anti-US Shiite cleric who runs a religious school and heads a group called Al Shabab al-Moumin, the Youthful Believers.
"It is imperative to make a distinction between the ongoing clashes in northern Yemen and Al Qaeda's various groups and leaders," says Faqih. "Al Houthi's group and Al Qaeda may share a common anti-American tone, but "Houthi hates Al Qaeda more than he hates the state."
Houthi's rebels have been flying the flag of the Iranian-backed Hizbullah organization and the militant cleric has been paying his followers $100.
"This is a huge sum. Where does he get all this money? Who is the party financing him and to what end?" asked Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in an interview last week with Lebanon's Al Mustaqbal newspaper.
Hizbullah has denied any involvement with Houthi, saying the party's policy "is not to intervene in other country's affairs."
The Zaidi Shiites are thought to comprise about one third of Yemen's population of 20 million with the moderate Shafi Sunnis making up the rest. Although the Shafi Sunnis historically have been tolerant of the Shiites, that could change if Al Qaeda grows, says Professor Hamzeh.
"It seems that Al Qaeda has been successful in radicalizing the Shafi Sunnis," he says. "I can definitely see a future clash between the Zaidi Shiites and the newly mobilized Shafi Sunnis."
Controversial Kazemi Trial Halted In Iran
18 July 2004 -- Iran's judiciary today abruptly ended hearings into last year's killing of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, triggering protests from lawyers of the victim's family.
What prompted the judges to halt the session was not immediately clear.
Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who represents Kazemi's family, walked out of the courtroom in protest.
Earlier today, western diplomats and journalists were barred from attending the trial of the security agent accused of killing Kazemi.
The 54-year-old freelance photographer died from a brain hemorrhage a year ago while in custody for taking pictures outside Tehran's Evin prison. The security agent blamed for her death has pleaded not guilty.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has said he believes the man is innocent and blamed the conservative judiciary for failing to look for other suspects.
Iran says Sept 11 plotters may have passed through
Sun 18 July, 2004 09:45
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has acknowledged that some al Qaeda members involved in the September 11 attacks on the United States may have passed through the country shortly beforehand.
U.S. government sources have said a bipartisan commission's report this week on the September 11 attacks will mention that some of the hijackers transited through Iran on their way to the United States.
"We have long borders and it is not possible to fully control them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference on Sunday when asked about the commission's report.
"It is normal that five or six people who cross the border illegally over a period of five or six months may evade our attention. The same happens on the border between Mexico and the United States," he added.
Asefi noted that Iran had tightened its border control since the September 11 attacks.
"It happened before September 11 and who knew that September 11 was going to happen?"
Iran denies U.S. accusations that it has collaborated with and harboured al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. The hardline Islamic movement was overthrown in a U.S.-led war at the end of 2001.
Tehran has arrested and deported hundreds of al Qaeda suspects in the past two years and says it is holding some senior members of Osama bin Laden's network.
On Saturday it announced it had smashed a ring of Iranian al Qaeda supporters.
"Iran has shown it is against terrorists and extremism and is serious about confronting terrorists," Asefi said.
He said news reports tying Iran to al Qaeda were part of a U.S. cover-up to deflect attention away from its failings in Iraq.
"The more we approach the U.S. (presidential) election the more we will witness such news propaganda," he said.
Islam apologist Ebadi takes over Kazemi case in Iran
Jul 17, 2004, 20:45
Islam apologist Shirin Ebadi and her selected three-man team will take over today's controversial murder case of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.
"I will be the attorney for Mrs. Kazemi's mother as well as her son Stephan," Ebadi told the students' news agency ISNA before the trial, which will be her first following last year's Nobel Prize win.
The Kazemi case is not only filled with ambiguities over the real culprit or culprits but also overshadowed by a political crisis between Teheran and Ottawa following Canada's withdrawal of its ambassador last Wednesday.
Iran Bars Diplomats, Foreign Press From Kazemi Trial
July 18, 2004
Iran's hardline judiciary today prevented foreign diplomats and the press from attending the trial of an agent accused of the killing in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi.
As the morning hearing started Canadian ambassador Philip Mackinnon, Dutch ambassador Hein De Vries as well as senior diplomats from the French and British embassies were kept outside the Tehran tribunal.
"It is a great shame. We were told we did not have the necessary permit to attend. We are in contact with the Iranian foreign ministry about this," one of the diplomats said.
Journalists working for foreign news organisations were also barred.
The controversial trial resumed yesterday after a nine-month gap, and journalists and diplomats had been permitted to attend.
Iran Protest Arrest of its Nationals
July 18, 2004
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
Baghdad -- Iranian embassy in Baghdad protested to Iraqi officials about the arrest of 14 Iranian nationals in Baghdad. Iraqi officials announced last week that they have arrested 85 foreigners in Iraq in addition to 14 Iranian nationals and accused them of sabotage.
The arrests were given wide coverage in Baghdad-based newspaper, As-Sabah, while there is no evidence to accuse the Iranians of sabotage.
After the collapse of Saddam Hussein, forging documents has been a routine in Iraq and certain press echo baseless charges against Iraq's neighbors for their own reasons.
9/11 Panel Report Says Iran Aided Al Qaeda
July 18, 2004
The Washington Times
The September 11 commission's report, due out Thursday, says Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks on the United States by providing eight to 10 al Qaeda hijackers with safe passage to and from training camps in Afghanistan, press reports said yesterday.
Weekly magazines Time and Newsweek, in similar reports quoting congressional, commission and government sources, said Iran relaxed border controls and provided "clean" passports for the so-called "muscle hijackers" to transit Iran to and from Osama bin Laden's camps between October 2000 and February 2001.
According to Time, the commission's report says Iran at one point proposed collaborating with al Qaeda on attacks against the United States, but bin Laden declined, saying he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.
Newsweek said the Iranian finding in the commission's report is based largely on a December 2001 memo discovered buried in the files of the National Security Agency.
The memo, according to Newsweek, says "Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to place stamps in the passports of al Qaeda fighters from Saudi Arabia who were traveling from bin Laden's camps through Iran."
Time said commission investigators "found that Iran had a history of allowing al Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border," a practice they said dates back to October 2000.
Iranian officials, Time said, issued "specific instructions to their border guards ... not to put stamps in the passports of al Qaeda personnel and otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier."
"The new discovery about Iran's assistance to al Qaeda," Newsweek said, "is among the most surprising new findings" in the 500-page report compiled by the non-partisan commission.
Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke, who in a recent book said President Bush's administration was obsessed with involving Iraq in the attacks and had ignored intelligence on Iran, told Newsweek the commission's report confirms that.
The day after the attacks, Mr. Clarke said in his book, Mr. Bush told him: "See if Saddam (Hussein) did this. See if he's linked in any way."
Although there was no evidence linking Iraq to the attacks, Newsweek quoted Mr. Clarke as saying "there were lots of reasons to believe (al Qaeda) was being facilitated by elements of the Iranian security services. We told the president that specifically. The best evidence we had of state support (for al Qaeda) was Iran."
Time said the Iranian offer to collaborate with al Qaeda to attack the United States was made after the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors as the ship was being refueled in Yemen.
"But the offer," said the weekly, "was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia."
Time said much of the new information about Iran "came from al Qaeda detainees interrogated by the U.S. government, including captured Yemeni al Qaeda operative Waleed Mohammed bin Attash, who organized the ... attack on the USS Cole."
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported yesterday the commission's report would recommend creation of a cabinet-level post that would take power from the CIA, FBI, National Security Council and Pentagon to oversee intelligence gathering said to have been lacking before and after the September 11 attacks.
The newspaper said the intelligence czar proposal would likely meet fierce opposition from the Pentagon and the CIA, "which would have to cede significant authority over the government's estimated $40 billion intelligence budget and other policy matters."
Under the proposal, the CIA director, who now reports directly to the White House, would have to go through the new national intelligence director, the Times quoted one official as saying.
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HUMAN RIGHTS: Judge Abruptly Ends Zahar Kazemis Death in Custody Trial
Radio Farda Newsroom
July 18, 2004 I'm so angry I cannot speak. They didnt even pay attention to our evidence and announced the end of the trial, Novel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said on Sunday to reporters, as she walked out from the courtroom where the trial of intelligence agent Mohammd-Reza Aqdam for killing her clients kin Zahra Kazemi.
Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, 54, died last July in the Evin prison of broken skull and hemorrhage, which, a presidential investigative panel said, was a result of the blows she had received during interrogation.
This is not a fair trial. The case hasn't been reviewed. If they issue a verdict it will be unfair, Ms. Ebadi said outside the Tehran criminal court on the second day of the trial, during which Ms. Ebadi and her colleagues tried to present evidence and quoted reports showing that other officials, notably from the Islamic governments judiciary, may have been involved in Zahra Kazemis death.
Victim familys lawyers also protested against the trials venue, and said the case must be tried as a murder at a higher, province-level penal court.
Foreign diplomats, including Canadian and Dutch envoys to Tehran, and foreign journalists, who attended the trial on Saturday, were barred from entering the courtroom on Sunday.
The defendant, whose trial resumed on Saturday after a nine-months break, and is charged with semi-involuntary manslaughter, maintained that he was innocent. He faces a maximum of three years in prison. His lawyer told the court that witnesses had seen the victim being hit on the head by a senior judicial official, identified as Mohammad Bakhshi.
The trial pits the judiciary against the intelligence ministry, Khatamis reformist government against the conservatives in the intelligence and security forces and the judiciary, and pits the lawyers of the victim against the lawyers of the accused, and pits both sets of lawyers against the judge, who ended the trial abruptly, announced that verdict will be announced sometime next seek.
The Islamic government officials last week rejected Canadas request to send three observers to the trial. They said Kazemi had entered Iran as an Iranian and her death in custody was an internal issue. But Kazemis death, the subsequent investigations and the trial a year after, places Canada and the Islamic government on two sides of a diplomatic row which may impact the two countrys trade and diplomatic relations.
Canada recalled its Tehran envoy last week, after the judiciary said Canadian diplomats could not attend the trial, but suspended the recall on Saturday, after Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon attended the trial.