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Iranian Alert - December 20, 2004 [EST] FBI Catches Iranian Surveillance Teams Red-handed in US
Regime Change Iran ^ | 12.20.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 12/19/2004 9:06:58 PM PST by DoctorZIn

Edited on 12/20/2004 10:29:05 AM PST by Sidebar Moderator. [history]

Top News Story

Tehran Accuses Israel after FBI Catches Iranian Surveillance Teams Red-handed

Excerpt from DEBKA-Net-Weekly 186 Updated by DEBKAfile

December 20, 2004, 9:46 PM (GMT+02:00)

Iranian Intelligence and Security Ministry ordered surveillance of Israeli diplomatic missions

To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE .

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman announced Sunday December 19 that intelligence minister Ali Younessi would “soon” report to the government on an eight-member spy ring that gathered information for Israel. No further information was offered about the identities of the “spies,” the nature of the “information” they had gathered or when.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources classify this vague, unverifiable charge as a typical Iranian exercise to cover up a fiasco. (Only recently they claimed to have put unnamed al Qaeda terrorists on trial.) It came two days after DEBKA-Net-Weekly broke the story that Iranian and Iran-sponsored surveillance teams has been discovered hanging about outside Israel’s diplomatic missions in the United States, South America, West Europe and the Middle East. Team members rounded up by the American FBI and Egyptian intelligence in the last ten days admitted under interrogation that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence.

Here is an excerpt from the DEBKA-Net-Weekly exclusive:

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave Israel’s trade and industry minister Ehud Olmert some disturbing news on Tuesday, December 14, when the two countries signed an accord that grants certain Egyptian exports duty-free status in the United States.

The day before the Israeli minister’s arrival in Cairo, Egyptian security services arrested a group of Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists carrying out surveillance of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and monitoring the movements of Israeli diplomats and their families in the city. They told their interrogators they were working for Iran.

Jerusalem was not bowled over by this friendly tip from the Egyptian president.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources report that foreign intelligence services have been telling Israel since late November that Iranian spy teams have been spotted outside Israeli missions in various parts of the world, including one nabbed by the FBI watching Israeli consulates in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston. It was made up of Iranian Americans, Arab and Pakistani students - some of them US citizens, and all activists belonging to Muslim fundamentalist groups.

They were perfectly aware that the data sent to Iranian intelligence was intended for use in hostage taking and bombing attacks against Israeli missions.

The notion of Tehran-instigated terrorist strikes in the middle of America’s main cities struck alarm in US intelligence agencies and Homeland Security department. Clearly, operations of this magnitude could not have been planned without top-level sanction from spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or without the presence in America of an operational network. Although assigned with striking Israeli consulates, there is nothing to stop this network from expanding its mission to American strategic targets as well.

Of particular concern are the close ties evolving between Iranian intelligence and al Qaeda cells based inside the Islamic republic. US intelligence sources have learned that Khamenei in person has created a new clandestine umbrella organization for bringing together as an arm of his bureau all the al Qaeda-linked groups and likeminded movements.

US intelligence experts are certain that data gathered for Tehran by the captured Iranian surveillance team may well have reached al Qaeda, some of it passed deliberately. Osama bin Laden’s organization is believed to be plotting a major attack in the United States. The Islamic Republic is in the habit of using proxies for its terror campaigns, like the Lebanese Hizballah against Israeli targets. That Al Qaeda operatives are harbored in Iran and run cells in many countries make it a natural partner-in-terror.

In the wake of the round-up of Iranian teams, al Qaeda cells were also picked up in Brussels, Amsterdam, Madrid and the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Hizballah surveillance teams were rounded up in parts of West Europe.

The US interrogation of the Iranian surveillance team and sightings of other watchers have led Israeli intelligence and security chiefs to conclude that Tehran was plotting simultaneous terrorist strikes across America and other parts of the world, blowing up Israeli missions and Jewish centers and taking hostages in several places at once. The captured team may even have been feeding deeply buried terrorist cells set up to carry out this string of assaults and still at large.

Israel has accordingly put all its embassies, consulates and other missions, as well as airlines, shipping companies and overseas company offices on high terror alert. Security has also been stepped up at overseas Jewish institutions and schools.



TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: armyofmahdi; axisofevil; axisofweasels; ayatollah; binladen; cleric; elbaradei; eu; germany; humanrights; iaea; insurgency; iran; iranianalert; iraq; islamicrepublic; japan; journalist; kazemi; khamenei; khatami; khatemi; lsadr; moqtadaalsadr; mullahs; napalminthemorning; neoeunazis; persecution; persia; persian; politicalprisoners; protests; rafsanjani; religionofpeace; revolutionaryguard; rumsfeld; russia; satellitetelephones; shiite; southasia; southwestasia; studentmovement; studentprotest; terrorism; terrorists; us; vevak; wot
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"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin

1 posted on 12/19/2004 9:07:02 PM PST by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

2 posted on 12/19/2004 9:10:09 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Last Update: 19/12/2004 21:25

Report: Iran says it has uncovered spy ring for Israel

By Haaretz Service

Iran said Sunday its intelligence services have uncovered a spy ring that collected intelligence information for Israel, according to a report by Israel Radio's Persian language program.

Israel Radio said that eight Iranian citizens have been arrested on suspicion of connection with the alleged spy ring.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the affair was serious, but did not disclose whether or not those arrested are Jewish.

Former Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian is slated to release more details at a later date.

In 1999, Iran indicted 13 of its citizens, most of them Jewish, on charges they were part of an Israeli spy ring. They were tried in a closed Islamic court in 2000, and 10 were handed prison terms.

The last of the ten were released before the completion of their prison terms, following intense pressure and widespread condemnation from human rights groups and Western governments.

3 posted on 12/19/2004 9:11:09 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Iraq detains 45 illegal visitors from Iran

Associated Press
Baghdad, December 19

Iraqi police detained 45 people claiming to be Iranian, Afghani and Bangladeshi after illegally crossing from neighbouring Iran, while American troops said on Sunday they captured eight Iraqis fleeing the scene of a roadside bomb blast.

The 45 detainees were captured at Mandali, on the Iranian border 97 kilometres east of Baghdad, on Saturday, Iraqi Police said.

The detainees, all men ranging in age from early 20s to 60s, claimed to be Muslim pilgrims and entered Iraq from Iran without any identity documents.

US soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division detained eight males fleeing the scene of a roadside bomb explosion near Beiji, 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, late on Saturday.

Military spokesman Master Sergeant Robert Powell said the soldiers captured the men after witnessing the explosion, but said it was unclear if the patrol was the target of the blast. No US casualties were sustained.

At least two other unexploded homemade bombs were found in the area, the military said.


4 posted on 12/19/2004 9:11:41 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Iran-EU nuke deal moving forward



By Modher Amin
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Tehran, Iran, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Iran said Sunday that a European delegation was to visit the country after the New Year holidays to discuss construction of a "research" nuclear reactor in the Islamic republic.

"A European delegation will come to Iran after the January holidays to discuss details of this issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters during a weekly news briefing.

The visit follows Iran`s agreement with the Europeans in Paris last month to suspend uranium enrichment activities in return for a package of trade, technology and security incentives, including the EU`s assistance in the construction of a light-water power reactor in Iran.

Iran is already building a heavy-water reactor at the central city of Arak. The plant could produce more fissionable material such as weapons-grade plutonium, giving rise to international concerns that the project could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Simultaneously, the country's first nuclear power plant is under construction in the southern port city of Bushehr with Russian assistance under an $800 million deal. The controversial project is planned to come on stream in early 2006 at the latest, according to comments by Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev on Friday.

Moscow has, so far, resisted U.S. pressure to abandon the project, saying it has the right to push ahead with the completion of the plant, but demanding at the same time that Iran return all spent fuel to Russia. However, no formal agreement on the issue has yet been reached between the two countries.

In a meeting in Moscow on Thursday with Iran's Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Safdar Husseini, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was ready to build new nuclear power plants for Iran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Referring to recent talks between Iran and the E3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- in Brussels, Asefi said Iran and the Europeans held their first nuclear committee session on Friday and discussed their "peaceful nuclear cooperation" as well as "tangible guarantees" on the implementation of their agreements.

"Preliminary discussions were held concerning the equipment used in the Bushehr power plant and other nuclear facilities, and it was agreed that such negotiations would continue," he said.

"Talks were also held on tangible guarantees which (are reflected in) the principles of the safeguards and non-proliferation treaties. It was agreed that we reach an understanding on these two subjects so that both we receive our due rights and the Europeans' concerns are removed," he added.

The two sides, however, will hold their "political and security" session Tuesday, Asefi said.

Iranian officials have, at times, warned against the prolongation of talks, with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi saying earlier last week that his country had "no interest in wasting time" and was trying to "assess the talks trend after three months to see if negotiations could guarantee Iran's right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

Iran has also been invited for the first time to a session of the 25-member club of the countries mastering the nuclear-fuel cycle, according to a quote from Asefi by the news agency IRNA.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely aimed at power generation, strongly rejecting U.S. claims that the program is a front to build atomic bombs.

Uranium enrichment is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, and the country wants it as part of its efforts to master a nuclear fuel cycle.

The EU incentives reportedly include a guaranteed supply of reactor fuel and a resumption of stalled trade talks.

Several rounds of talks on a mutual trade and cooperation agreement had been held between the two sides before Iran`s nuclear issue was catapulted into the center of their talks.

The EU-Iran talks began after the reformist President Mohammad Khatami came to power in May 1997, with the EU taking up a policy of "comprehensive dialogue" with the Islamic republic in the form of biannual Troika meetings on political and economic issues.

The political part of the dialogue covers issues regarding conflicts, including in the Middle East, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism.

On the economic front, the European Union is exploring possibilities for cooperation with Iran in energy, trade and investment as well as refugees and drugs control.

The EU is Iran`s biggest trading partner, with oil accounting for over 80 percent of Tehran`s exports to the Union. Iran also sells agricultural products -- mainly pistachios -- as well as textiles and carpets to the EU.


5 posted on 12/19/2004 9:12:09 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Thanks Dr.Zin. I get a chuckle out of these reports. Iran is developing nuclear weapons and we're supposed to be shocked that Israel has spy teams on the case. Yeah, this is breaking news. Note to Iran, you boys are about to get your lunch handed to you. I guess that will be a surprise too.


6 posted on 12/19/2004 9:17:46 PM PST by DoughtyOne (US socialist liberalism would be dead without the help of politicians who claim to be conservat)
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To: DoughtyOne; DoctorZIn; nuconvert; freedom44; F14 Pilot; Grampa Dave; MeekOneGOP
Note to Iran, you boys are about to get your lunch handed to you.


Israeli Delivery Force delivers
lovely parting gift to Osirak reactor.

7 posted on 12/19/2004 9:24:42 PM PST by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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To: PhilDragoo

Boy, this was a tough call hugh Phil. This is an audible no respectable coach would object to.

How do you say 'heap big crater' in Farsi?


8 posted on 12/19/2004 9:27:50 PM PST by DoughtyOne (US socialist liberalism would be dead without the help of politicians who claim to be conservat)
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To: DoctorZIn

Iran Shows Persian Gulf Historical Maps

ALI AKBAR DAREINI

Associated Press

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/10455605.htm?1c

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran unveiled a collection of historical maps on Sunday in a bid to prove the legitimacy of calling its neighboring sea the Persian Gulf instead of the "Arabian Gulf" as it also is listed in the new world atlas by National Geographic.

Last month, Iran banned the sale of National Geographic Society publications to protest the "Arabian Gulf" inclusion. The issue also has caused widespread protests by intellectuals, historians, students across Iran, formerly Persia.

Identification of the Gulf region and various parts within it has long been a sensitive topic for Iran, which believes that there has been a pan-Arabist campaign since the 1950s - led by late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and followed by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein - to call the sea the "Arabian Gulf."

Iran considers use of that term an affront to its sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who inaugurated the exhibition of ancient and historical maps Sunday, said the name of the Persian Gulf cannot be changed.

"Presenting historical evidences here is merely for the sake of reiteration," Kharrazi said.

The exhibition included a 1990 atlas released by National Geographic that identifies the sea as the Persian Gulf and the islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs as owned by Iran.

In its eighth edition atlas released in October, National Geographic used the term "Arabian Gulf" alongside "Persian Gulf" and referred to the islands as "occupied" by Iran and "claimed" by the United Arab Emirates.

In a Dec. 8 statement on its Web site, National Geographic said it was aware of the sensitivities of the issue and had held "constructive and informative" discussions with individuals and organizations representing Iranian and Persian interests.

"These meetings have also given us an opportunity to affirm our long-standing position that the Persian Gulf is the historic and most commonly used name for the body of water southwest of Iran," the statement said.

It said the company was reviewing ways to further clarify notations on map products and services.

Earlier, it had defended the atlas, saying it recognized the Persian Gulf as the primary name but used the "Arabian Gulf" alongside it to make is easier for users searching for that designation.

The Tehran exhibition displayed about 100 historical maps, including a 1952 Arabic map printed in Saudi Arabia that identifies the sea as "Persian Gulf."

"As all of us are aware, the United Nations in two documents issued respectively in 1971 and 1984 has declared the Persian Gulf as the official name of the sea," Kharrazi said. Also attending the exhibition were foreign diplomats based in Tehran.

Iranian researchers and historians have launched a campaign to defend the Persian Gulf name, and youths are also collecting signatures through the Internet to support the campaign.

"Intellectuals, researchers and everybody who respects preserving historical names can't remain silent to such a clear distortion of facts. Iranian researchers are working through articles and scientific evidence to defend the name of the Persian Gulf," political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand said.


9 posted on 12/19/2004 10:25:34 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn

45 arrested in Iraq while crossing from Iran
12/19/2004 11:30:00 AM GMT

http://www.aljazeera.com/cgi-bin/news_service/middle_east_full_story.asp?service_id=6192

Iraqi police arrested 45 men for illegally trying to enter the country through its border with Iran.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces said they captured eight Iraqis fleeing the scene of a roadside bomb.

The police said that the 45 men were arrested late Saturday at Mandali, on the Iranian border 60 miles east of the Iraqi capital. The detainees had no identity documents but said they were Muslim pilgrims coming from Iran, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. Their age ranged from early 20s to 60s.

Also U.S. soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division captured eight men fleeing a roadside bombing late Saturday near Beiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad.

Master Sgt. Robert Powell said the soldiers arrested the eight men after they saw the blast, however he said that it wasn’t clear if the patrol was the target. There was no word of casualties among the Americans.

Also the U.S. military said it found two unexploded homemade bombs in same area.

Anti-occupation rebels have launched several roadside attacks targeting U.S.-led forces to force them leave the country.

During the late night raid, U.S. occupation forces also seized thousands of dollars, 15 personal computers and a range of communications equipment.

10 U.S. firm's workers kidnapped in Iraq

Meanwhile 10 employees for Sandi Group were kidnapped in Iraq, a security source in Baghdad confirmed on Sunday .

The Associated Press Television News aired a videotape showing four masked militants holding 10 Iraqi hostages from the company.

The Associated Press reported that the armed men who appeared in the video, said they would kill the 10 hostages if their employer doesn't leave Iraq. They also threatened to launch more attacks on its Iraqi operations.

In the video, nine blindfolded men appeared lined up against a stone wall and another one lying down; apparently wounded, together with a group of armed men covering their faces with Arab head scarves, and holding machine guns.

The Sandi Group -- which is headquartered in the U.S. -- employs 7,000 in Iraq and provides security, transportation, lodging and translation services in the country.

Chad Knauss, an American and deputy chief operations officer of Sandi Group in Iraq, refused to comment on the report.


10 posted on 12/19/2004 10:31:16 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
The notion of Tehran-instigated terrorist strikes in the middle of America’s main cities struck alarm in US intelligence agencies and Homeland Security department.

Wow...could it be that those in charge of US intelligence and Homeland Security are morons??

11 posted on 12/19/2004 11:05:19 PM PST by kimosabe31
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To: PhilDragoo; DoughtyOne


12 posted on 12/20/2004 2:49:19 AM PST by MeekOneGOP (There is only one GOOD 'RAT: one that has been voted OUT of POWER !! Straight ticket GOP! )
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To: DoctorZIn
The detainees, all men ranging in age from early 20s to 60s, claimed to be Muslim pilgrims and entered Iraq from Iran without any identity documents

Pilgrims. Sure.

13 posted on 12/20/2004 4:59:47 AM PST by Gritty ("Fundamental Islam is a culture that lives for death. Why should we deprive them of it?"-Arlene Peck)
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To: MeekOneGOP

Hah hah ha...

Pretty good!


14 posted on 12/20/2004 7:14:21 AM PST by DoughtyOne (US socialist liberalism would be dead without the help of politicians who claim to be conservat)
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To: DoughtyOne
Thank you. :^D

15 posted on 12/20/2004 9:22:37 AM PST by MeekOneGOP (There is only one GOOD 'RAT: one that has been voted OUT of POWER !! Straight ticket GOP! )
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To: DoctorZIn


Iran-EU Nuke Deal Moving Forward

December 20, 2004
UPI
Modher Amin


TEHRAN -- Iran said Sunday that a European delegation was to visit the country after the New Year holidays to discuss construction of a "research" nuclear reactor in the Islamic republic.

"A European delegation will come to Iran after the January holidays to discuss details of this issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters during a weekly news briefing.

The visit follows Iran`s agreement with the Europeans in Paris last month to suspend uranium enrichment activities in return for a package of trade, technology and security incentives, including the EU`s assistance in the construction of a light-water power reactor in Iran.

Iran is already building a heavy-water reactor at the central city of Arak. The plant could produce more fissionable material such as weapons-grade plutonium, giving rise to international concerns that the project could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Simultaneously, the country's first nuclear power plant is under construction in the southern port city of Bushehr with Russian assistance under an $800 million deal. The controversial project is planned to come on stream in early 2006 at the latest, according to comments by Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev on Friday.

Moscow has, so far, resisted U.S. pressure to abandon the project, saying it has the right to push ahead with the completion of the plant, but demanding at the same time that Iran return all spent fuel to Russia. However, no formal agreement on the issue has yet been reached between the two countries.

In a meeting in Moscow on Thursday with Iran's Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Safdar Husseini, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was ready to build new nuclear power plants for Iran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Referring to recent talks between Iran and the E3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- in Brussels, Asefi said Iran and the Europeans held their first nuclear committee session on Friday and discussed their "peaceful nuclear cooperation" as well as "tangible guarantees" on the implementation of their agreements.

"Preliminary discussions were held concerning the equipment used in the Bushehr power plant and other nuclear facilities, and it was agreed that such negotiations would continue," he said.

"Talks were also held on tangible guarantees which (are reflected in) the principles of the safeguards and non-proliferation treaties. It was agreed that we reach an understanding on these two subjects so that both we receive our due rights and the Europeans' concerns are removed," he added.

The two sides, however, will hold their "political and security" session Tuesday, Asefi said.

Iranian officials have, at times, warned against the prolongation of talks, with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi saying earlier last week that his country had "no interest in wasting time" and was trying to "assess the talks trend after three months to see if negotiations could guarantee Iran's right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

Iran has also been invited for the first time to a session of the 25-member club of the countries mastering the nuclear-fuel cycle, according to a quote from Asefi by the news agency IRNA.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely aimed at power generation, strongly rejecting U.S. claims that the program is a front to build atomic bombs.

Uranium enrichment is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, and the country wants it as part of its efforts to master a nuclear fuel cycle.

The EU incentives reportedly include a guaranteed supply of reactor fuel and a resumption of stalled trade talks.

Several rounds of talks on a mutual trade and cooperation agreement had been held between the two sides before Iran`s nuclear issue was catapulted into the center of their talks.

The EU-Iran talks began after the reformist President Mohammad Khatami came to power in May 1997, with the EU taking up a policy of "comprehensive dialogue" with the Islamic republic in the form of biannual Troika meetings on political and economic issues.

The political part of the dialogue covers issues regarding conflicts, including in the Middle East, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism.

On the economic front, the European Union is exploring possibilities for cooperation with Iran in energy, trade and investment as well as refugees and drugs control.

The EU is Iran`s biggest trading partner, with oil accounting for over 80 percent of Tehran`s exports to the Union. Iran also sells agricultural products -- mainly pistachios -- as well as textiles and carpets to the EU.

16 posted on 12/20/2004 3:00:02 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Iranian daily asks government to freeze nuclear talks with EU

TEHRAN, Dec 20 (KUNA) -- A conservative Iranian daily on Monday called on the government to pull out from negotiations with the European Union over nuclear issues unless the Europeans relinquished "policies of demands and new terms."

Jomhouri Islami newspaper said in it editorial today that the European side have broken promises made to Tehran to abide by the Paris Accord.

It called on Britain a leading member of the European Troika, to refrain from meeting US demands and impose what the American administration wants.

The paper lashed out at Britain as the part that wanted to gradually embarrass Tehran, noting that Iran always faces new demands and terms.

The paper criticized Iran's agreement to negotiate with the European Union instead of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a "political mistake," a move that allowed other countries, like the United States, to intervene through its links with the Europeans.

17 posted on 12/20/2004 3:16:37 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Freedom in Farsi blogs

Tens of thousands of Iranians have embraced weblogs as a way to access the forbidden and challenge the sanctioned, writes N Alavi

Monday December 20, 2004

An image portraying the dual identity experienced by young people in Iran. Photograph: Shadi Yousefian
An image by Iranian photographer Shadi Yousefian vividly portrays the dual identity experienced by young people in Iran
 


In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, devised and set up one of the first weblogs in his native language of Farsi. In response to a request from a reader, he created a simple how-to-blog guide in Farsi, thereby setting in motion a community's surreal flight into free speech; online commentaries that the leading Iranian author and blogger, Abbas Maroufi, calls our "messages in bottles, cast to the winds".

With an estimated 75,000 blogs, Farsi is now the fourth most popular language for keeping online journals. A phenomenal figure given that in neighbouring countries such as Iraq there are less than 50 known bloggers.

The internet has opened a new virtual space for free speech in a country dubbed the "the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East", by Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF). Through the anonymity and freedom that weblogs can provide, those who once lacked voices are at last speaking up and discussing issues that have never been aired in any other media in the Islamic world. Where else in Iran could someone dare write, as the blogger Faryadehmah did, "when these mullahs are dethroned ... it will be like the Berlin wall coming down ..."?

In the last five years up to 100 media publications, including 41 daily newspapers, have been closed by Iran's hardline judiciary. Yet today, with tens of thousands of Iranian weblogs there is an alternative media that for the moment defies control and supervision of speech by authoritarian rule. Even though the subject matter of many weblogs may seem tame by universal standards, most surpass the limitations imposed by state censorship. There is an endless variety of bloggers who are fans of everything from Harry Potter to Marilyn Manson.

Yet to find these digital depictions of youth culture superficial would be to forget that self-expression is a rare privilege in Iran. These commentaries vividly bear witness to a reality that Iranian youth are almost fixated with the culture they are being deprived of. They offer a glimpse of a society where, for some, David Beckham, lipstick and St Valentine's Day celebrations have become cherished symbols of freedom.

Like an invisible conveyor belt running through the rejections of the ministry of culture, banned material eventually ends up on the internet. In Iranian blogsphere you can even download hand-typed abstracts from the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, who was the subject of a fatwa, or death order, issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

While for some blogging allows them to revel in the forbidden, for others it's a way of organising action and spreading the word. As RSF's 2004 Internet Under Surveillance report states: "Weblogs are much used at times of crisis, such as during the June 2003 student demonstrations, when they were the main source of news about the protests and helped the students to rally and organise".

In the aftermath of last year's earthquake in Bam, with well over 20,000 deaths, the Iranian weblog community was totally immersed in the currents of a national disaster. Bloggers were busy through a variety of non-government organisations sorting out their own collections points and the transportation of aid; notifying their virtual community of the whereabouts of survivors relocated to hospitals in urban centres; organising hospital visits, charity sales and recruiting volunteers.

In April 2003, when Sina Motallebi, a web-journalist, was imprisoned, Iran became the first government to take direct action against bloggers. Sina's arrest was only the beginning and many more bloggers and online journalists have been arrested since. As RSF puts it: "In a country where the independent press has to fight for its survival on a daily basis, online publications and weblogs are the last media to fall into the authorities' clutches ... through arrests and intimidation, the Iranian authorities are now trying to spread terror among online journalists".

Recent reports have also suggested that the authorities are seeking to implement a national intranet, which would separate Iran from the world wide web. But technological trends may be working in favour of free speech, as even China has not been able to fully contain the free flow of information.

Paradoxes seem central to Iran, where a political ethos of education for the masses has forbidden all forms of free expression. It remains to be seen for how long a small group of ageing clerics can impose their designs of a radical state on a predominantly educated society where 70% of the population under 30 has no memory of the revolution.

Iranian weblogs allow us to eavesdrop on the personal conversations of a closed society, providing a unique momentary glimpse into the inner struggles that a burgeoning young population face, the steady shift of an ideological state, and a revolution within the revolution. As the political satirist and star of Iranian blogsphere, Ebrahim Nabavi, puts it: "After 25 years fortunately we have exported our revolutionary ideas to the whole world ... Europe, America and Asia ... but we have exported all of it ... so there is none left at home ... but the leaders of our country cannot be bothered to announce this to the world".

· N Alavi author of IranBlog was born in Iran. After attending university in the UK and working in the city of London and academia she returned to her birthplace working for an NGO for a number of years. Today she lives in the UK.


18 posted on 12/20/2004 3:18:56 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Two face death after Iran morality trial

Human rights groups urge Britons to help save abused women from execution by hanging and stoning

David Smith
Sunday December 19, 2004
The Observer


Two women convicted of crimes against morality in Iran are facing imminent execution, one by being buried up to her chest and stoned, Amnesty International said last night.

One of the women, a 19-year-old with a mental age of eight who was forced into prostitution by her mother, is to be flogged and executed. An official said yesterday he was waiting for orders on whether to stone or hang her. The other woman was convicted of adultery and is due to be stoned to death this month in accordance with Iran's severe penal code.

Amnesty issued an urgent warning that time was running out for both women and urged the international community to tackle Iran over its executions of women and child offenders. In August another mentally ill girl, 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi, was hanged in a street for having sex before marriage.

The 19-year-old, known as 'Leyla M', was a prostitute by the age of eight and was raped repeatedly, according to a Tehran newspaper report. She gave birth when aged nine and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at about the same time. When she was 12 her family sold her to an Afghan to be his 'temporary wife', while her mother became her new pimp, 'selling her body without her consent', the report said.

At 14 she became pregnant again, receiving a further 100 lashes before giving birth to twins. When her temporary marriage ended, her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man who was married with two children and did not object to Leyla's clients coming to his house.

Last month, Leyla, appearing at a court in the central Iranian city of Arak, was sentenced to death on charges of 'acts contrary to chastity' by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. The sentence has now been passed to the supreme court for confirmation. She apparently 'confessed' and faces being flogged before being executed.

Iran has executed at least three child offenders in 2004 and 11 others are believed to have been sentenced to death, according to Amnesty. Under the penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be executed.

Interviewed by an Iranian journalist in her cell, Leyla was asked if she understood she was to be put to death. 'Yes, that's what they are saying,' she replied. 'But people in prison say this is a lie. They want to frighten you a bit.

'I haven't done anything. My mother told me to go to a man's house and I did. If she said don't, I wouldn't have. I was frightened. If I didn't listen to her, she would have harmed me. She beats me - my father, too.'

Asked when she was first forced to have sex, Leyla said: 'I was eight, the first time my mother took me to a man's house. It was a horrible night. I cried that night. Cried a lot. The day after she [my mother] came after me and took me home and bought chocolate and crisps for me.'

Leyla has been robbed of the consolation of spending time with her children. 'We used to play together before I went to prison. For some time they were with my mother and then they went to my father. I don't know where they are at the moment.'

She said of her father: 'He is a very bad-tempered man. He frightens me. But I liked him when he bought me goodies.'

Asked if her mother had visited her on death row, Leyla said: 'No, she hasn't. If you see my mother, tell her that she promised to bring me crisps and chocolate. Also tell her not to forget my red dress.'

Campaigners in Iran are compiling a petition against the execution, which they will present to the United Nations. Another group, the International Committee Against Stoning, is to meet officials of the European Union tomorrow in an attempt to build diplomatic pressure on Iran over the imminent execution of Hajieh Esmailvand, whose sentence for adultery was upheld by the supreme court and changed from death by hanging to death by stoning, before Tuesday. The man with whom Hajieh had the affair, who was 17 at the time, has been sentenced to death by hanging.

Mike Blakemore, of Amnesty International UK, said: 'Time is running out for Hajieh and Leyla, but it's still not too late. People in the UK can help stop these executions by writing to the Iranian authorities, letting them know that people around the world will not sit idly by and let this happen.

'But these horrific cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day women are subjected to terrifying violence, repression and abuse. Violence against women is a human rights atrocity and one we must tackle urgently.'


19 posted on 12/20/2004 3:20:43 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Under Iran's 'divinely ordained justice', girls as young as nine are charged with 'moral crimes'. The best that they can hope for is to die by hanging

(Filed: 19/12/2004)

As one young woman awaits sentence and another faces death this week, Alasdair Palmer reveals the Iranian legal system's shocking barbarity towards children

"My mother doesn't visit me in prison. If you see her, tell her she promised to bring me cheese curls and chocolate. And she shouldn't forget to bring my red dress."

 
A woman protester with noose around her neck
A protest against the regime in Iran

Those pathetic words may be among the last utterances of a 19-year-old girl, identified only as Leila M, who has been condemned to death in Iran for "acts incompatible with chastity".

According to Amnesty International, Leila has a mental age of eight. What evidence there is of her life so far records an existence of unrelieved misery and brutality.

She was sold into prostitution at the age of eight by her parents. She recalls the experience of when her mother "first took me to a man's house" as "a horrible night. I cried a lot … but then my mum came the next day and took me home. She brought me chocolate and cheese curls."

Forced by beatings and threats to continue "visiting men" from that night onwards, she became pregnant and had twins when she was 14. She was punished with 100 lashes by the Iranian courts for giving birth to illegitimate children.

Leila was bullied back into her degrading and demeaning work. Earlier this year, she confessed to the authorities that she had been working as a prostitute since she was a child – perhaps because she thought that they might help her escape her miserable existence.

The courts did respond by pulling Leila out of prostitution, but they also imprisoned her and used her confession to convict her of "moral crimes", for which the judges have decided the appropriate penalty is death.

They dismissed evidence from doctors and social workers that she has a severe mental handicap. This week, Iran's Supreme Court, which by law must confirm every death sentence imposed by the lower courts, will rule on whether to uphold her execution.

There is every indication that the Supreme Court will decide that Leila must die. Earlier this year, they upheld a sentence of death on 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi. Atefeh had also been convicted of "acts incompatible with chastity".

In her defence, she said she had been sexually assaulted by an older man. The judges did not care. So, on August 16, at 6am, Atefeh was taken from her cell and hanged from a crane in the main square of the town of Neka.

Witnesses report that she begged for her life as she was dragged kicking and screaming to the makeshift gallows. She shouted "repentance" over and over again – a gesture which, according to Islamic law, is supposed to grant the accused the right to an immediate stay of execution while an appeal is heard.

Atefeh's cries were in vain. Haji Rezaie, the judge who presided over her trial, put the noose around her neck himself. He said he was pleased to do it. "Society has to be kept safe from acts against public morality," he insisted.

He ordered that her body be left hanging from the crane for several hours so people could see what happened to teenagers who "committed acts incompatible with chastity".

In the case of Hajieh Esmailvand, a young woman found guilty of adultery with an unnamed 17-year-old boy, the Supreme Court has not only confirmed the death sentence imposed by the lower court, but changed the means of death from hanging to execution by stoning.

Hajieh's original sentence had been for five years' imprisonment followed by death by hanging. A month ago, the Supreme Court annulled her jail sentence – but only so that Hajieh could be stoned before December 21, and with the recommendation that she should be.

In the next two days, it seems likely that Hajieh will die from wounds caused by stones thrown by "executioners". The Iranian Penal Code states that women should be buried up to their breasts before being stoned. Article 104 is specific about the type of stones that should be used when a woman is to be punished for adultery. They "should not be large enough to kill the woman by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones". Hajieh will die slowly, in agony, buried in sand, as officials lob correctly sized stones at her head.

It is a fate that also awaits Zhila Izadyar, a 13-year-old girl from the northern province of Mazandaran. She has been sentenced to be stoned to death after her parents reported that she had had an incestuous relationship with her 15-year-old brother and had become pregnant by him.

Zhila has already received a "preliminary punishment" of 53 lashes. A representative from Iran's Society for the Protection of Children's Rights has managed to visit Zhila in prison. She found the 13-year-old in a desperate state, in solitary confinement and unable to keep down food. She has not been allowed to see her child.

"I am scared. I want to go home," said Zhila. "I want to go back to school like the other children." But if Iran's judges have their way, Zhila will see neither her school nor her home again. She will be buried up to her neck and the last thing she will see will be stones hurtling towards her head.

The barbarity towards children of the Iranian legal system is all the more surprising in that it contradicts the international legal obligations on the treatment of children, which the Iranian government has adopted. Iran is a signatory both to the International Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which explicitly forbid the execution of minors - let alone their killing by stoning.

Even Iran's chief justice has seemed to recognise that, although stoning is prescribed by Sharia law as the punishment for women who have sexual relations with men to whom they are not married, pelting a woman to death with rocks counts as excessively cruel.

Two years ago, he ruled that, while stonings should still be the nominal punishment for adultery and pre-marital sex, that sentence should be routinely commuted to execution by hanging.

It appears from the fate in store for Zhila Izadyar, however, that his commitment to the de facto abolition of stoning was about as sincere as the Iranian government's commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are no plans to change any of the provisions of the Penal Code that relate to children, and which state that girls as young as nine can be executed (boys have to reach the age of 14 before they can be killed).

Many Iranians are revolted by the brutality and injustice of their judges' attitude to children. Shadi Sadr, an extremely brave lawyer who represents Atefeh Rajabi's family, has filed a suit against the judiciary for wrongful execution, and is preparing a murder charge against the judge who hanged her.

While fundamentalist mullahs still hold on to power in Iran, her suit is unlikely to succeed. Indeed, those who are disgusted by judicial decisions cannot even safely express their condemnation of a system that not only hangs children, but beats them to death in public: Kaveh Habibi-Nejad, a 14-year-old boy, suffered this fate on November 12 for eating on the streets during Ramadan. A witnesses said that they thought he died because "the metal cable being used to flog him hit his head".

Mahbobeh Abbasgholizadeh, an Iranian academic, was arrested on November 1 after having queried some aspects of Iranian justice in a speech she made at a conference. She was held for a month before being released and charged with "acting against the security of the country". If she is convicted, it could mean an indefinite prison sentence.

The European Union has said that it is ready to "intensify" political and economic ties with Iran if the Iranian government takes steps to allay international concerns over its involvement in terrorism and the abuse of human rights. But the Islamic administration seems to care more about protecting what many of the religious hierarchy regard as "divinely ordained justice" than achieving fresh political and economic concessions from the EU.

Britain, France and Germany, acting on behalf of the EU, have already agreed to further trade links with Iran, after Tehran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment process, which could yield material suitable for nuclear bombs.

For Hajieh Esmailvand and Zhila Izadyar, the prospects are bleak. The best they can hope for is to die by hanging rather than being stoned. As for the mentally retarded Leila M - she seems likely to hang in public before Christmas.


20 posted on 12/20/2004 3:23:40 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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