Number 2 of Egyptian group Al-Jihad held in Iran
Aug 5, 2003
CAIRO - The second in command of Egyptian Islamist group Al-Jihad, Sarwat Salah Shehata, has been arrested in Iran and will be extradited along with dozens of other Arab prisoners, a lawyer said Tuesday.
Sentenced twice to the death penalty in absentia by Egyptian courts, Shehata is being held with around 350 Arab and Egyptian Islamic militants, lawyer Hani al-Sebai told AFP.
"Egypt recently sent an interior ministry delegation (to Iran) to identify Egyptian prisoners, before making an official request for their extradition," said the London-based Sebai.
His claims could not be corroborated by the Egyptian government.
Shehata left Egypt in 1991 for Afghanistan, where he worked with fellow Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's right hand man and number two of the al-Qaeda terror network.
However, the Egyptian lawyer told Arab daily Al-Hayat that Shehata is not linked to the group, accused by the United States of carrying out the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
The lawyer insisted that Shehata led a group of Jihad (holy war) fighters who broke away from Zawahri and bin Laden in 1998, but he is on a US list of most wanted Islamic militants, drawn up after the attacks.
It is unclear when Shehata was arrested, but he has lived in Iran for two years, Sebai told AFP.
"Several Arab militants, arrested since September 11 2001, have already been extradited to Europe or their home countries, frequently via Syria," Sebai told AFP during a telephone interview.
"The Iranian authorities have set up a special detention centre for militants and their families," he added.
Diplomatic sources and the Arab media say Iran is holding Saad bin Laden, a son of the al Qaeda leader, stripped of his Saudi nationality; Zawahri; another Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who became al-Qaeda number three after military operations chief, Mohammad Atef, died in Afghanistan; and Kuwaiti Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the network's spokesman, also stripped of his nationality.
However, Sebai however, told AFP that Zawahri was not among these prisoners.
On Sunday, Dubai-based satellite television channel Al-Arabiya broadcast an audiotape purported to have been made by Zawahri, vowing to take revenge if any prisoners held at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were sentenced to death.
Tehran said Monday it had decided to keep secret the identities of al-Qaeda
suspects in its custody "for security reasons" and ruled out a tradeoff with Washington for members of the Iranian armed opposition People's Mujahedeen. http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1571.shtml
posted on 08/05/2003 9:47:34 PM PDT
(IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
KHATAMI'S SWAN SONG
By Ahmad Sadri*
He ignored the beckoning of Fortuna and chose the path of safety, mediocrity and appeasement
PARIS, 5 Aug. (THE IRANIAN) It is not the first time that the Iranian philosopher and reformer Abdolkarim Soroush takes President Khatami to task in an open letter. The ornate, rhyming prose of Soroush's scathing epistle is awash in tropes, poems and pathos. A response bearing Khatami's name has appeared. It is unlikely that President Khatami wrote this letter but it can be viewed as a trenchant defense of Khatami's record against Soroush's critique.
The letter rightly emphasises that at the time of his first election Khatami ran on more than empty words. He was well respected for resigning his post in the Cabinet of the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani over his defence of artistic freedom.
When Khatami subsequently ran as underdog against a generic right wing candidate he ran on his record, but also talked a good game about the rule of law, reforms, constitutional liberties and democracy.
He did the same after he was elected, and now as his second term approaches a disappointing end he is still talking a good game. According to public opinion polls, Iranians consider him a decent man who means what he says.
Their problem is that all he does is talk.
The 69 percent of the eligible voters who elected Khatami to his first term knew the flawed constitution of the Islamic Republic had stacked the deck against him. Everyone also knew that in confronting what the letter calls "the gargantuan shadow government" Khatami was in the unenviable position of having to be truly outstanding.
Khatami was anything but outstanding at the end of his first term. He had failed to counter the conservatives' assaults on the reform and reformers. The letter written on behalf of Khatami rhetorically asks Soroush: "What would you have done in my place?" Would a confrontation serve the long term interests of the reform movement or those of the authoritarian establishment?
Fearing chaos and violence Khatami had watched as the right wing's legal and extra-legal apparatus picked off his close associates, student activists, journalists and parliamentarians one by one. Nobody expected him to call his constituencies to the streets. But based on his popular mandate he could have engaged in symbolic action.
Nobody expected Khatami to call his supporters out onto the streets. But based on his popular mandate he could have engaged in symbolic action. When his right-wing rivals shut down the reformist press and brutalised protesting students, could he have not gone on a political fast?
When the hanging judges of the right wing judiciary imprisoned his lieutenants and other reformists on trumped up charges, could he have not gone to visit those prisoners of conscience? Was there no alternative to supine passivity or enticement violence?
And yet, as long as Khatami's sins remained those of omission, Iranians gave him the benefit of the doubt. His inaction was generously construed as wanting to pick his fights. He had shown courage in confronting the state-sponsored serial murderers of dissidents.
Khatami was elected by landslide to a second term but without making a single campaign promise. Given his weak performance a genuinely democratic system would not have allowed this.
But the right wing Council of Guardians that vets candidates for all elections, wittingly or otherwise eliminated Khatami's reformist challengers and handed him the reformist mantle on a silver platter. Thus Khatami was able to play the reluctant candidate and still win the highest elected office of the land.
In the wake of his easy victory Khatami made real sins commission. After his second election Khatami simply could not ask any of his detractors: "What you would have done in my place?"
He dismissed the plight of the unjustly imprisoned journalists asking: "How do we know they have not violated the law?" He chose a more right wing Cabinet than he had in his first term, despite the fact that he had a sympathetic Parliament on his side and was no longer beholden to right-wing power brokers such as Rafsanjani.
At the apogee of his power Khatami lost his nerve. He ignored the beckoning of Fortuna and chose the path of safety, mediocrity and appeasement. He abandoned his historical mission (not as president but as the leader of the political reform movement) to legitimately transform Iran's decrepit political system. Instead, he let the clock run, hoping for a draw.
The letter that has been written in Khatami's defence points out to his opening up the political space in Iran. Of course, Khatami must be given credit where he has succeeded. But he hasn't yet realised the opportunity cost of doing so little.
Khatami pretends not to know that his pedantically legalistic view of his responsibilities and his lack of political imagination led to his squandering Iran's foremost opportunity to peacefully break free from religious tyranny.
What should Khatami do now? The twin reform bills he introduced to the Parliament are trapped in Iran's Byzantine legislative process and will be still born if they ever emerge into public life.
In his two remaining years in power Khatami must campaign for ending the Council of Guardians' vetting powers. He ought to call for a referendum on this issue and publicly announce that he would resign if the right wing's fetters were not removed from the electoral process.
If he wins this battle the coming election will be free from interference. This will open the door to the next generation of reformers whose discontent is crystallised in Soroush's letter. If Khatami fails, his resignation will underline the fundamental unfairness of Iran's election process, which is virtually rigged by the Council of Guardians. ENDS KHATAMI FUTURE 5803
Editors note: Mr. Ahmad Sadri is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College, IL, USA.
The popular "Iranian" website based in Los Angeles published the above article on 3 August 2003
Some editorial work and highlights are by IPS http://www.iran-press-service.com/
posted on 08/05/2003 9:50:25 PM PDT
(IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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