Mostafa Hashemzadeh, a student arrested during the memorial ceremony for the victims of the Ukrainian flight 752 that was shot down by IRGC, says during his detention security forces threatened to kill him with air injection into his veins.
Hashemizadeh, a student of Civil Engineering at the University of Tehran said the security agents were threatening him in order to make him write down the confession they were dictating.
Hashemzadeh added that all of his confessions during that time that were written by the interrogator and signed by him are “absolute lies” and were coerced through “threatening him with death and disappearing the body and threat of keeping the family unaware of his life or death”.
He went on to say that after his family finally posted his bail of 850 million rials (about $5,500 at the time) for temporary release, the interrogator raised the bail to more than 4 billion rials, a huge sum for ordinary people in Iran.
Hashemzadeh was sentenced to five years in prison for unlawful assembly and conspiracy against national security and one year in prison and 74 lashes for disrupting public order. These are common charges made against peaceful protesters in Iran.
He also suffered other punishments such as being held in a mental hospital, barred from the dormitory, and forced to participate in anger management courses.
Microsoft: Iranian Hackers Targeted Conference attendees In Germany And Saudi Arabia
Microsoft announced hackers backed by the government of Iran have targeted over 100 high-profile potential attendees of two international security and policy conferences in Germany and Saudi Arabia. The tech company said Wednesday it detected attempts by the hacking group it calls Phosphorus to trick former government officials, policy experts, and academics.
“We believe Phosphorus is engaging in these attacks for intelligence collection purposes,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft's security chief. “The attacks were successful in compromising several victims, including former ambassadors and other senior policy experts who help shape global agendas and foreign policies in their respective countries.”
Wednesday’s announcement refers to the hacker group as Phosphorus, while others call it APT35 or Charming Kitten. Charming Kitten is a well-known Iran-backed hacker group that is known for its mass phishing attacks.
Cybersecurity researchers have said the group typically tries to infiltrate a target’s personal online accounts and computer networks by luring them into clicking on a link to a compromised website or opening a malicious attachment, a process known as phishing.
UK-Iranian Dual National Held In Tehran Summoned To Court
LONDON (AP) — The husband of a British-Iranian woman detained in Iran for more than four years said Wednesday that she has been summoned to a new court hearing and warned she will be sent back to prison.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told to attend court in Tehran on Monday, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said. He said she has been told to pack a bag as she will be returned to prison following the hearing.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016, when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. She strenuously denies the allegations.
She was arrested during a family holiday with her young daughter. Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency.
She was moved to house arrest in March, when thousands of prisoners were released during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ratcliffe says his wife is being held for “political leverage” in a multimillion-pound dispute between Britain and Iran over tank sales in the 1970s.
“We don’t know what will happen on Monday, we don’t know how far and how soon they will take forward their prison threat,” he said in a statement.
“But we do know that the Revolutionary Guard are signaling something to the British government. We also know they are signaling this could have a long time still to run.”
Citing ‘Insults,’ Iran Rules Out Canada Talks Over Downed Airliner
Mohsen Baharvand, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, has ruled out talking to Canada over Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752, which Iranian missiles brought down in January, killing all 176 aboard including 63 Canadians.
Baharvand, who leads the Iranian team negotiating with Ukraine, accused Canada of using “propaganda, pressure and insults” against Iran. “We cannot cooperate, and will not cooperate, with a country that is seeking to impose its one-sided goals on us,” Baharvand told the government news agency IRNA.
Canadian authorities had requested to talk whenever they needed information, Baharvand charged, but then followed “their own one-sided work as soon as they leave us.”
Baharvand said the next round of talks with Ukraine over the incident would take place in a month. During the last round, in Tehran on October 19 and 20, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Yenin said Kyiv sought to “uncover all the truth about the tragedy.”
Ukraine has stressed the importance of a full report disclosing details of how a Revolutionary Guards air-defense system fired two missiles at flight PS752 as it took off from Tehran on the morning of January 8. Iran ascribed the incident to human error.
Families of the victims have launched court cases in Canada and the United States suing the Islamic Republic, its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and top military officials.
On January 8, Iran was wary of a possible US response after it fired ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad five days earlier. Many major airlines diverted flights from Iranian and Iraqi airspace after the US bases in Iraq were hit, but Tehran did not close its airspace, and both civil and military aviation authorities cleared the Ukrainian plane for take-off.
Iran Chief Justice Says International Agreements Won’t Save Israel
Ebrahim Raeesi, Iran’s Chief Justice, said on Wednesday [October 28] that any international agreement aimed at guaranteeing the existence of Israel is condemned to failure. Raeesi was meeting the outgoing Syrian ambassador, Adnan Mahmoud, in Tehran.
Since August Israel has concluded United States-brokered normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – agreements condemned by Palestinian leaders.
“If agreements and relations with the Zionist regime were supposed to advance its cause, the Camp David agreement [with Egypt in 1978] would have been successful,” Raeesi was quoted by IRNA, insisting that both Camp David and the Oslo accords, Israel’s 1993 and 1995 agreements with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, had led nowhere.
Raeesi told Ambassador Mahmoud that Syria’s role in the ‘resistance front’ was exemplary and praised the Assad family for its “steadfast” stance against Israel and Sunni Islamist militants who he called “a creation of America and Israel.”
As early as 2011 when protests against President Assad’s regime gained momentum, Iran rendered intelligence and military assistance to crush the opposition, which was not yet dominated by Sunni militants. As the war expanded, militant Islamist groups gained influence among anti-Assad forces.
Raeesi said that sanctions against Iran and Syria would not weaken their will, that resistance groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas would be victorious, and that Israel would be “wiped out.”
Raeesi was appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to head the judiciary in early 2019 and is widely seen as the top candidate to succeed the 81-year-old Khamenei, a position that would be filled by a vote in the Experts Assembly.
Iran Parliament Speaker Has Covid
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker, has tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating, but says he will continue to work from home.
Ghalibaf, 59, announced the news in a tweet on Wednesday morning [October 28]: “One of the staff in my office has COVID. At midnight the result of my test was given and it is positive. I’m self-isolating and will, God willing, follow up the work and tasks given to me.”
On October 6 President Hassan Rouhani called off a scheduled meeting with Ghalibaf and Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi on the grounds that the speaker had failed to observe protocols of the National Coronavirus Taskforce for top officials.
A day earlier Ghalibaf had paid a visit to a hospital in Tehran and met with Covid patients in intensive care.
The incident led to a row between the supporters of Ghalibaf and Rouhani with the former alleging that the president’s only concern was his own health.
The Communications Deputy of the Presidential Office Alireza Moezzi said in a tweet that the hospital visit was a publicity stunt with cameras in tow.
Tension between Ghalibaf and Rouhani has been stoked by parliamentary criticism of the president that led to plans for impeachment, which were this month quashed by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, in the interests of unity. Ghalibaf has been discussed as a possible candidate in the presidential election due in June.
Among the high-ranking Iranian officials infected with Covid19 since the outbreak in February are Vice-President Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht, Cabinet Spokesman Ali Rabiei, former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar and Khamenei’s International Affairs Adviser Ali Akbar Velayati. Several others, including three parliamentarians and some judiciary officials, have died.
Iranian Plane Lands In Venezuela Amid US Warnings Against Missile Shipments
An Iranian plane belonging to a company sanctioned by the United States in 2019 for allegedly shipping weapons to Syria landed in Venezuela on Tuesday.
The 747 aircraft, owned by Iran’s Qeshm Fars Air, landed at a time when trade ties have grown closer between the two OPEC members, whose oil industry and banking are under increasingly strict U.S. sanctions. It was not immediately clear what the plane brought to Venezuela.
Iran has shipped million of barrels of oil to Venezuela in recent months and received payments in gold. Since a UN arms embargo on Iran expired this month, there have also been reports of possible Iranian weapons transfers to Venezuela.
Elliot Abrams, the US Special Representative for the two countries warned October 26 that if Iranian missiles are shipped, they will either be destroyed on route or on the ground once they arrive in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters.
Earlier this year, more than a dozen flights from Iran’s Mahan Air brought materials to help repair Venezuela’s refineries. Iran has also sent two flotillas of tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela, easing acute fuel shortages in the South American country.
The two countries’ growing ties have drawn criticism from Washington, which is seeking to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave power, and to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
With reporting by Reuters
US State Department Wishes Happy Cyrus The Great Day For All Iranians
In a video message on Tuesday, US Special Representative for Iran, Elliott Abrams congratulated Cyrus the Great Day to Iranians around the world.
Abrams said Cyrus’ legacy of religious tolerance and respect for human rights inspired many American presidents including Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the Virginia statute of religious freedom.
“But the Iranian regime doesn’t want its own people to celebrate Cyrus Day and it won’t let Iranians to gather at his tomb,” he added. “Why? Because the Islamic Republic represents the antithesis of Cyrus’ legacy.”
Cyrus the great was the founder of the Persian Empire and historians believe his first major conquest, the taking of Babylon in 539 BC occured on October 29. As he and his successors conquered most of the ancient world, Cyrus' dictum of freedom of religion for all peoples held sway in the empire.
As sentiments against the Islamic Republic grew in Iran in recent years, people began gathering at Cyrus' tomb in Persepolis to pay their respects, but the government has prevented the annual gatherings since 2017.
Mentioning some of the massive violations of human rights and religious freedoms by the Islamic Republic, Abrams continued: The Ayatollahs persecute the Baha'i and other religious minorities, promote anti-Semitism, and throw human rights lawyers in jail. The regime tortured and executed champion wrestler Navid Afkari, to intimidate the protesters. And last year, it shot hundreds of innocent Iranians dead in the streets.
“This regime doesn’t want Iranians to remember the wisdom and tolerance of Cyrus, because as they do, the people are reminded just how much this regime has harmed their great nation,” Abrams added.
He ended his message with the hope for the freedom of Iranians, saying: “One day Iranians will be free again. And we look forward to celebrating Cyrus the Great Day together with you, then.”
UN Watchdog Confirms That Iran Is Building Underground Nuclear Site
AP - The Secretary-General of UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy confirmed that Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after the explosion that destroyed the Natanz nuclear site.
Rafael Grossi also stated that Iran continues to stockpile greater amount of low-grade enriched uranium, which does not appear to be enough to produce a weapon.
Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area. Satellite pictures of Natanz analyzed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran's central Isfahan province.
“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”
He would not give further details, saying it’s “confidential information.” Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear department, last month told state television the destroyed above-ground facility was being replaced with one “in the heart of the mountains around Natanz.”
Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.
Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal's limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset U.S. sanctions.
Pompeo: Iran, China, North Korea Have Tightened Coercive Measures On Religious Freedoms
On the 22nd anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement criticizing China, Iran, and North Korea for tightening their coercive measures to silence their people.
The statement begins by mentioning the fact that the United States was the country that enacted the International Religious Freedom Act, and reiterated that ”religious freedom and other themes of human dignity are – and will always remain – a core US foreign policy priority."
The statement continues: Today, three of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers – the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea – have tightened their coercive measures to silence their own people. Worse, the PRC has sought to eradicate all forms of faith and belief that don’t align with the Chinese Communist Party doctrine.
The treatment of Uighur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party has caused global criticism and backlash, especially by the US. China has kept millions of Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps” in terrible condition.
Iran discriminates against religions and sects not officially recognized by the government. The Baha'i community is the most persecuted but other groups, such as Dervishes also find themselves under pressure. If the large Muslim Sunni community experiences various discriminations, including restrictions on holding high office or freely building their own mosques.
In its previous annual statement on religious freedom, the US Department of State had demanded that the violators of religious freedoms in Iran be identified and sanctioned.
The statement concludes: Every person, everywhere, has the right to believe or not believe, change one’s beliefs, speak one’s beliefs, gather, and teach. On this International Religious Freedom Day, the United States is proud to promote and protect religious freedom.
President Of Iran’s State TV Demands Legal Action Against ‘Enemy Satellite Channels’
Almost 130 Persian speaking channels and 140 channels in ethnic Iranian dialects are actively broadcasting against our country, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Abdolali Ali-Askari announced on Tuesday.
He did not explain how he arrived at these numbers or offer any information about these channels.
In a meeting with the IRIB legal experts, Ali-Askari said: “We must be able to legally investigate and neutralize this aggression.”
“It is unprecedented for us to file a legal complaint against the massive amount of negative propaganda and campaigns to change public opinion against us on satellite channels,” Ali-Askari continued.
He did not clarify, however, what charges and accusations will be used to sue the media outside of Iran.
Meanwhile, several international satellite channels of the Islamic Republic have been restricted or penalized on international satellite networks for broadcasting forced confessions and violating human rights.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to bar satellite channels from broadcasting into Iran for decades and has used different methods to do so.
For decades the regime has banned satellite dishes in the country and threatened citizens with fines and even jail time if they would install a satellite dish. Despite all these efforts, according to the most conservative estimates, over 70 percent of Iranians now use satellite dishes. In recent years the regime has mostly given up on that pursuit.
The regime has also been jamming satellite signals for decades, specifically Persian speaking news and political channels.
Seoul Delaying Decision On Frozen Iranian Assets Until US Election
The Chairman of Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday suggested that Seoul is stalling talks between the two countries over Iranian funds frozen in South Korea as it awaits the outcome of the United States presidential election.
“The central banks of the two countries are making provision for the release of our money in some manner,” Hossein Tanhai told the Iranian Labour News Agency on Tuesday. “There is no doubt that the [result of the] plans being made is tied to the outcome of the US elections. Both countries are awaiting the announcement of the US elections result.”
Tanhai said the funds frozen by Korean banks since US sanctions were tightened in May 2018 amounted to $8.5 billion.
Iranian diplomats have been busy in talks with trade partners to release delayed payments for Tehran’s exports and thereby replenish Iran’s foreign currency reserves, which have been depleted both through collapsed oil revenue and in support of the national currency, the rial, which has lost its value almost tenfold against the dollar since early 2018.
Several billions owed to Iran, mostly for the supply of electricity and gas, have been frozen in Iraq. An official of the Central Bank of Iraq on Thursday told Iran International that the bank was unable to pay the debt even in Iraqi dinars due to deepening US sanctions.
Tehran has threatened legal action against Seoul, although on September 23 Vice-President Ali Vaezi expressed optimism that South Korean banks would release the funds. Korea has exported $500,000 worth of medicine and medical equipment to Iran since Seoul announced in April that Washington had granted it a license for some humanitarian trade with Iran.
Deputy Minister Says Tests Suggest 35 Million Iranians Have Had Covid
Iran’s deputy health minister has reiterated that studies in several cities indicate that as many as 35 million Iranians had caught Covid19 by September. But Dr Reza Malekzadeh, deputy minister with responsibility for research and technology, stressed that government policy was to control the epidemic, not to reach ‘herd immunity,’ which he said would be unethical.
Malekzadeh was quoted in the Hamshahri newspaper on Tuesday [October 27]. “A study that we conducted in April indicated that more than 25 million had already caught the virus,” he said. “We estimate that a month ago the number…had increased to 35 million.” Malekzadeh said a larger study was underway with results expected in a month or two.
On September 14 Malekzadeh told Hamshahri that a study carried out on 10,000 asymptomatic subjects – including in Qom, an early epicenter of the pandemic, and Rasht in the north, a ‘hot zone’ soon after the Qom outbreak in February – had found more than 30 percent had caught the virus. Malekzadeh said the study had used blood samples, regarded as a more accurate means than regular Covid test kits.
The studies have been based on serological tests that can identify antibodies – immunoglobins (IgG) in the case of coronavirus – in the blood. These antibodies are employed by the body against viruses and bacteria, and they far outlast the source of infection so that their presence reveals the earlier occurrence of the infection.
Sanctioned Iranian Oil Minister Zanganeh Says US Is Desperate
Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has dismissed the United States decision to sanction him for supporting the country’s Revolutionary Guards. In a tweet on Monday, soon after a statement by the US Department of Treasury, the veteran minister called the move “a desperate reaction to the failure of Washington’s policy to bring [Iran’s] oil exports down to zero.”
The US imposed secondary sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in November 2018, after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement, which US President Donald Trump had called “the worst deal in history.” Iran’s 2.5 million barrel-a-day crude exports have fallen to less than 400,000, depriving the country of most of its foreign currency earnings and sending it into a deep recession.
On Monday October 26, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), along with Zanganeh, and several affiliates for their “financial support” of IRGC’s Qods (Quds) Force.
Some analysts doubt that further US sanctions change much. “Iran’s oil industry will not be crushed,” Zanganeh wrote in his tweet. “I have no assets outside Iran to be subjected to sanctions. My life and honor at the altar of Iran.”