Published on September 1, 2009
“Why haven't the leaders of riots and those who everyone knows touched off the plots been arrested?”
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council, in a sermon during Friday prayers
In August, Iran began mass trials of protestors and reform activists arrested in the wake of the June presidential election. Thus far approximately 150 people have been tried in what many are calling judicial theater. Those on trial are accused of vandalizing and destroying public property, creating public panic, and attacking military and security forces.
Among the defendants are many prominent reformists, including Saeed Hajjarian a senior aide to former president Mohammad Khatami and member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, from which he resigned during court proceedings after confessing to fomenting unrest. Hajjarian, who was severely disabled after an assassination attempt in 2000, has been in worsening health since his detention. His confession has been presumed to be coerced, as have most of the confessions given by those on trial. It is unclear what penalties will be handed down for those convicted.
While leading reformists and former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi remain free, the head of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, among others in the governing regime, have called for their prosecution.
Mousavi’s brother-in-law Shapour Kazemi has been held for over two months without charge or access to legal counsel. Kazemi’s family claims that he had no political involvement in Mousavi’s campaign. Speculation is that he is being held to put pressure on Mousavi.
“Raping of some detainees … has been proven to us.”
- unidentified member of parliament quoted on the Parlemannews website
“Claims of sexual abuse of detained protestors are sheer lies.”
- Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani as quoted by the Iranian run English-language PressTV on August 12
Despite claims by the government and hardliners that allegations of abuse are baseless, more reports of prison rape surfaced in the last few weeks. Mehdi Karroubi, joined by Mir- Hossein Mousavi, has taken the lead in decrying sexual violence against prisoners and has published prisoners’ accounts of abuse. The government closed Karroubi’s newspaper Etemad-e Melli in response to stories on the rape allegations.
Two days after issuing a call for an investigation, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani stated that no evidence of sexual abuse was found during the inquiry and called upon Karroubi to present solid evidence to the parliament. On August 25, Karroubi met with the parliamentary special committee on post-election unrest to provide supporting documentation for the allegations, which the committee intends to investigate. Authorities have admitted that prisoners were subjected to physical abuse at the now closed Kahrizak detention facility.
Human rights activists are also concerned by reports that 44 unidentified bodies were buried at the Behesht Zahra cemetery and by the announcement of 17 detention facilities in Tehran that are claimed to operate outside Iran’s judicial and penal system.
“Thirty percent of president’s proposed ministers for the tenth cabinet will surely fail to gain the confidence vote from the Majlis … These ministers will not get the confidence vote because they do not have enough experience and expertise required in areas related to their ministries.”
- member of parliament Seyyed Najib Hosseini quoted by Mehr News Agency
“The president wants to be the ruler in sensitive ministries of intelligence, interior, culture, oil and foreign. So he has introduced people whose major quality is that they are yes-men.”
- member of parliament Ali Motahari quoted in the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced his slate of cabinet nominees last week, taking to the airwaves to present each candidate to the Iranian public, perhaps sensing that he may have a tough confirmation battle in the parliament. In his selection of ministers, the president appears to be surrounding himself with political allies, shoring up a base of support in the midst of ongoing political turmoil. Several nominees have ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the oil and defense ministers. The choice for defense minister has angered the international community, in particular, as he is wanted by Interpol in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
However, Ahmadinejad may be attempting some overtures to moderates with his appointment of three women – who would be the first to serve as cabinet ministers since the revolution. While some reformists, religious leaders and academics have applauded the nomination of women, others are questioning whether the women selected are fully qualified for their posts. Additionally, many Iranian women have regarded the nominations with suspicion, fearing that those nominated are far-right conservatives who would closely follow Ahmadinejad’s agenda rather than advance the cause of women. Religious conservatives are questioning whether women should hold ministerial posts at all.
See this week’s background brief in the Iran Bulletin for more information on the cabinet and those nominated.
“We thus conclude that the 10th Iranian presidential election is a genuine reflection of the will of the Iranian people and that Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the duly elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
- Reza Esfandiari, in the conclusion to the report “A Review of the Chatham house report on Iran’s 2009 presidential election offering a new analysis on the results”
Esfandiari released a report in August responding to British think tank Chatham House’s June 21 report that identified irregularities in voting patterns in Iran. His report, while acknowledging some aspects that might warrant further investigation, provided explanations and statistical analysis refuting the conclusions reached by Chatham House.
The widely varying analyses of voting patterns highlights that the Iranian electoral system does not contain sufficient mechanisms for transparency in the vote process, for validating results or resolving election disputes – an argument that the National Democratic Institute, the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University and others have reiterated in recent weeks.