Former Revolutionary: Khamenei Must Be Held Accountable For Afkari's Execution | Iran International

Former Revolutionary: Khamenei Must Be Held Accountable For Afkari's Execution

A former Iranian revolutionary who dubbed Khamenei "a despot" in an open letter in 2012 and again in 2018, has said that Iran’s ruler is the main culprit in the killing of the young political prisoner and wrestler Navid Afkari and must be held accountable for it.

In a statement published on September 14, Abolfazl Ghadiani, condemned the execution of Navid Afkari on Saturday calling it "illegal, revengeful and unjust", and said "the intention of the totalitarian Islamic regime is to instill fear in people by killing Afkari and its other criminal acts [against the Iranian people] to ensure its own survival".

The 74-year-old former revolutionary and regime supporter has on several occasions in recent years fearlessly spoken against Khamenei, calling him "a despot" and demanded that he should be held to account for the crimes of those in power against the people.

Abolfazl Ghadyani, a former revolutionary who has turned against Iran's Supreme Leader

Abolfazl Ghadyani was a co-founder of the Mujahedin of Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), a small left-leaning guerilla group in the 1970s that fought against the Shah. In the early years of the Islamic Revolution MIRO helped the new regime consolidate its power and had a pivotal role in the formation of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

MIRO came under pressure after the death of the founder of the Revolution and transfer of power to Khamenei in 1989. The organization was eventually banned in 2010 along with the reformist Mosharekat Party after supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi, the challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 disputed presidential elections.

Ghadyani and several other high-profile members of MIRO including former deputy speaker of the parliament Behzad Nabavi, and former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh were arrested after the elections and put on trial. They were sentenced to prison terms on various charges including "acting against national security".

In 2018, Ghadyani was put on trial again for "insults against the Supreme Leader" and was sentenced to three years in prison and hand-copying books written about Khamenei, as punishment for "insults against the Supreme Leader" and another two years for "propaganda against the regime".  Ghadyani has not been taken to prison to serve his sentence.


Thirty-two Percent Rise In Tehran Province Deaths Undermines Official Covid Figures

Overall death figures for Tehran province have added to suspicion over figures being given by officials over the growing spread of coronavirus, or Covid19. On Friday September 25, the Head of the Management and Planning Organization of Tehran Province, Masoud Sahfiei, said the total number of deaths from all causes had risen by 32 percent in the province during the first five months of the Iranian year (beginning on March 21).

The jump from 24,000 in the same period last year to 31,000 happened despite a decline in deaths from traffic accidents, which fell 16.2 percent to 6,332, according to the Legal Forensics Organization of the Judiciary, a drop widely attributed to diminished traffic during coronavirus restrictions.

The Health Ministry stopped announcing data for Covid19 cases and deaths for individual provinces shortly after the pandemic began in February and has never disclosed the number of cases or death toll in the capital Tehran and the religious center of Qom. A parliamentary research report in April suggested that deaths from the virus might be double the official figures.

On Friday the Chairman of Tehran City Council Mohsen Hashemi claimed Covid19 deaths had been as high as 100 a day in Tehran at some point, had dropped to around 50, but had now risen to around 70. Hashemi, who gave no details, has along with some councilors and parliamentarians long questioned Health Ministry figures.

On August 3 Nahid Khodakarami, a member of the council’s own health committee said 8,600 had died in Tehran, a city of 12 million, from Covid19. On the same day the Health Ministry announced a total death of 17,190 for the entire country, whose population is around 84 million.

Iran is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic. According to the latest official figures, released on Friday September 25, the total number of cases rose by 3,563 to 439,882 within the previous 24 hours, with 207 deaths bringing the total to 25,222. This daily death rate is close to the highest daily toll of 229 reported on July 21 during the second wave.

Amnesty Calls On States To Make Rights Violations In Iran A Matter Of Priority

Amnesty International has delivered an oral statement at the 45th session of UN’s Human Rights Council meeting on September 25 expressing concern over intensification of human rights violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“We have documented the widespread use of torture since last November, including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances, and deprivation of medical care,” Amnesty highlighted in its statement.

In mid-November 2019 widespread anti-government protests erupted in Iran, sparked by a sudden rise in fuel prices.  Authorities almost immediately resorted to military-grade force in subduing protesters, killing hundreds and detaining around 7,000 people.

Those arrested have been denied proper legal protections, subjected to various methods of torture and many have been tried without the due process of law.

“We are also witnessing abusive criminal proceedings and sentencing. The death penalty is being wielded as a weapon of political repression – against protesters, dissidents, and members of minority groups,” Amnesty told the delegates at the session.

The international rights group has followed the protests and repression closely since last November keeping detailed files of those killed and arrested. It has repeatedly appealed both to Iranian authorities and the international community to end the intense violations of rights since November.

During the meeting 47 countries also read a statement voicing concern and Amnesty welcomed their Joint Statement. It also called attention to Iran’s Judicial system that “executes children and amputates fingers.”


Sources Confirm France Summoned Iran Envoy Over Rights Concerns

France's foreign ministry this week summoned Iran's envoy over the country's worsening disregard of human rights, three sources aware of the matter told Reuters, signaling concern about what Paris calls "serious and constant violations".

France rarely comments publicly on human rights in Iran, but on September 22 Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said more needed to be done over what he said was worsening human rights violations in Iran following anti-government protests in November 2019.

When asked by Reuters whether France, in conjunction with Britain and Germany had acted collectively, to warn Iran over its treatment of political prisoners and dual nationals held in the country, a foreign ministry official sidestepped the question.

"The French authorities regularly express their concerns about the serious and constant violations of human rights in Iran," spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said. "These concerns are shared by many partners, including Germany and the United Kingdom."

But Germany has also become vocal regarding the recent execution of a detained protester and played an active role in presenting the concerns of 47 countries on September 25 at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

One source said the three European powers had acted jointly and warned Iran its actions were harming relations. Two sources said the envoy had been summoned on Thursday.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that the respective ambassadors from all three countries were being summoned specifically over Tehran's treatment of political prisoners and the detention of dual nationals.

The European Union has not imposed sanctions over rights violations in Iran since 2013.

Without naming the E3, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded to the Guardian article in a statement saying some European powers were interfering in the country's internal affairs.

"Iran believes the politically-motivated behavior and selective moves of the U.S. and certain European governments have always dealt the heaviest blow to the principle of human rights," he said. 

Reporting by Reuters

Iran's Oil Exports Rise Significantly In September - TankerTrackers

Iran’s oil exports in September increased unexpectedly and sharply up to the level of 1.5 million barrels per day, unseen in the in at least 18 months, according to tanker-tracking data.

Since May 2019, the United States imposed full sanctions on Iran’s exports, and crude sales dropped from more than two million bpd in 2017 to around 200,000 in 2020.

The unexpected rise in oil exports could be a big break for the Islamic Republic, which has run out of hard currency revenues and is facing a deep recession.

Reports by TankerTrackers and other data companies surveyed by Reuters say most of the exports are shipped vis unidentified tankers by ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas and it hard to say who are the buyers. This means Iran has to sell its oil much cheaper than the already depressed global prices.

During the past year or more, China has been the main importer of Iranian oil, both directly and indirectly but it has not paid any cash, counting it against debts owed by Iran.

"Exports are way up right now. We are seeing close to 1.5 million bpd in both crude and condensate so far this month," Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers, told Reuters. "These are levels we haven't seen in a year and a half."

The amount was twice that of August, TankerTrackers data showed, and around 11% of it was ultra light crude, known as condensate. Reuters could not independently verify the data.

Other ship tracking and data companies verified the increased level of exports but not to the extent reported by TankerTrackers.

One of them told Reuters it was seeing an increase of at least 100,000 bpd in September - still a sizeable volume compared to a low point in May when Iran's crude exports fell to 100,000 to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 2.7 million bpd in May 2018.

The United States on September 19 unilaterally announced the restoration of international sanctions against Iran suspended since 2015.


Zarif: US Must Compensate Iran Before It Returns To Nuclear Obligations

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said on Thursday September 25 the United States must compensate Iran for losses due to American sanctions before Iran returns to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. His insistence on conditions comes as Iran emerges as an issue dividing US President Donald Trump from his Democratic Party challenger Joe Biden in the presidential election due on November 3.

Zarif, who is visiting Moscow, was quoted by Sputnik News: “The return of the United States to the nuclear deal is the first step that they should take. For this return, [the US] must compensate for damage that it caused to the Iranian nation, as well as for measures taken by the US to undermine the nuclear deal, and promise to not do it again.”

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called the agreement, known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), “terrible” and has insisted that Iran should directly negotiate with the US for a wider deal that is stricter on Iran’s nuclear program, ends its ballistic missile program and curbs its links to regional allies.

Trump imposed stringent sanctions, reducing Iran’s oil exports to near zero and sending its economy into recession, after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA in May 2018. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that these US sanctions had denied Iran around $70 billion that might have been used to build a nuclear weapon.

Biden has indicated that he would be willing to bring the US back into the JCPOA provided Iran returns to full compliance. Since the US tightened sanctions, Iran has expanded its nuclear program beyond the limits set by the JCPOA, including increasing its stockpiles of enriched uranium to ten times those allowed.

The European signatories of the agreement – France, Germany and Britain – have urged Iran to return to full compliance. But they have also opposed US moves to reimpose UN sanctions lifted after the JCPOA was implemented and to extend an arms embargo on Iran due to expire in October. The Trump administration has unilaterally declared that it regards the UN sanctions to be back in place.

Amnesty International: Amputation Of Fingers Of Four Men In Iran Is A Crime Under International Law

Amnesty International released a statement calling on the international community to do everything in its power to stop Iranian authorities from amputating the fingers of four men convicted of robbery following forced “confessions” and grossly unfair trials, said Amnesty International today.

The sentences for amputation of fingers against the four men, Hadi Rostami (33), Mehdi Sharfian (37), Mehdi Shahivand (42), and Kasra Karami (40), have been upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court and referred to the Centre for the Implementation of Sentences.

“Carrying out such unspeakably inhumane punishments is not justice and underlines the cruelty of Iran’s criminal justice system,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Amputation constitutes torture, which is a crime under international law, and an abhorrent assault on human dignity,” she added. “We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally stop such shocking acts of cruelty. The international community must urgently act to ensure the sentences are quashed. The prosecution and judicial authorities responsible for ordering and executing such practices should know that they are liable to face criminal prosecution under international law.”

Amnesty also mentioned that the four men were denied access to a lawyer and were tortured in order to confess.


Arrested Student Says He Was Threatened With Lethal Air Injection

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.

Iran's Currency Falling Close To A Dangerous Benchmark Against US Dollar

Iran’s rial on Thursday continued to tumble against major currencies reaching an all-time low of 286,500 against the US dollar, amid fears of more US sanctions and no end to the country’s economic crisis.

Approaching the important milestone of 300,000 rials to the dollar means the battered currency has fallen ten-fold in the past three years, when President Donald Trump first signaled his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in 2017 and then in May 2018 officially announced the US withdrawal, imposing crippling sanctions.

The most damaging has been full sanctions on Iran’s oil exports which have deprived the government of its major foreign currency revenue source. With a 50 percent budget deficit, the Central Bank of Iran has no choice but print money, which further devalues the currency and leads to hyperinflation.

In 1978 before the revolution that toppled the monarchy the dollar stood at 70 rials. This means that 10,000 rials could buy $142. Now the same amount is worth just 3.5 cents.

The fall of the rial is not only because of sanctions. Economists maintain that the Islamic Republic’s economic system is inefficient and corrupt. The major fall in the value of rial happened before any significant sanctions were imposed on Tehran, when the dollar climbed from 70 rials to nearly 20,000.

A business and economy publication in Tehran, Donya’e Eghtesad, wrote on Thursday that people do not need to check the exchange rate on their phones. They just need to go to a fruit stand and look at the price of bananas.


Iran Guards Open New Naval Base Near Strait Of Hormuz

Tehran, Iran | AFP | Thursday 9/24/2020 - 

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have unveiled a new naval base aiming to project "dominance" over the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state media reported, following months of tensions with arch-enemy the United States.

The "Martyr Seyed Majid Rahbar" base lies in the southern province of Hormozgan, near the entrance to the narrow Strait of Hormuz through which a fifth of world oil output passes.

The vital shipping lane and nearby Gulf waters were the scene of heightened US-Iranian tensions late last year when ships were mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized.

"This base has been built with the purpose of total dominance over the entry and exit of extraterritorial aircraft and naval vessels" at the entrance to the Gulf, Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami said on Wednesday.

"This location is one of the country's most strategic defensive points," he added, quoted by state TV's website.

The Guards' navy, which operates separately from the Iranian armed forces, "now has a very powerful naval base" six years in the making, Salami said.

His remarks come days after a US aircraft carrier passed the waterway to enter the Gulf , amid Washington threats to enforce United Nations sanctions on Iran -- a move other world powers have dismissed as legally void.

The Guards on Wednesday released on their official Sepah News website drone-captured photos reportedly showing the USS Nimitz.

In June last year, Iran shot down a US Global Hawk drone over the strait after it allegedly violated the Islamic Republic's airspace, a claim the US has denied.

The enemies have twice come to the brink of direct confrontation since then.

Washington has blamed Tehran for last year's mysterious attacks against oil tankers in the nearby Gulf of Oman as well as an attack on Saudi oil facilities, with Iran denying all charges.

Iran Lawmakers Reportedly Receive Influenza Vaccines Before 'Vulnerable' Groups

Reports circulating in some media outlets in Iran saying 1,500 doses of the influenza vaccine has been sent to parliament for members and staff of the legislature have led to controversy.

The Food and Drug Agency had said earlier that vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women will have priority in receiving the vaccines, considering the high rate of coronavirus infections in the country and the danger of influenza leading to more serious cases of COVID.

But IscaNews and Entakhab newspaper, as well as social media accounts have revealed that members of parliament have apparently also received priority. Some have published the copy of an official form showing delivery of the vaccines to parliament’s infirmary.

Iran has ordered 16 million doses of the influenza vaccine and has allocated 1.5 million free doses for vulnerable individuals, also including health workers. Members of parliament have not been named in this group.

One report says parliament received the 1,500 doses for a price of less than two dollars per dose.

Members of parliament in recent weeks has been the target of criticism for receiving considerable housing and other allowances, in addition to reports of getting expensive sedans at favorable prices and payable in three years. Monthly loan payments for the cars would be around 70 percent of a lawmaker’s salary, leading many to ask how they can afford these payments.

A member of parliament receives a monthly salary of around 110,000 million rials, currently equal to around $400, which is more than four times the income of a worker in Iran.