Iran Court Charges French Tourist Detained Last Year For 'Espionage' | Iran International

Iran Court Charges French Tourist Detained Last Year For 'Espionage'

The lawyer of a French tourist arrested in Iran a year ago has confirmed on Sunday that a court in Mashhad has charged his client with espionage and “propaganda against the regime”.

Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in May 2020, allegedly for flying a drone and taking photos in an off-limit region in the north. Iran has arrested many foreign and dual nationals in the past and charged them with vague accusations, such as involvement in conspiracies against the regime. Currently, several such prisoners are in Iranian prisons.

The lawyer said in a tweet that the court dismissed two other charges of drinking alcohol and “Corruption on earth”, an Islamic concept of moral wrongdoing. Some believe Briere was arrested after he asked in a tweet why hijab is compulsory in Iran but voluntary in other Islamic countries.

Iran is engaged in negotiations with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States in Vienna over its nuclear program. Media has reported that the issue of prisoners has perhaps come up in these talks but so far, no prisoner exchange has taken place. The UN and human rights organizations have accused Iran of detaining foreigners as a bargaining chip.

 

Iran Guards Commander Says 'Enemy Suffers From Mental Decline'

Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, General Hossein Salami has said that “the enemy suffers from strategic ambiguity and mental decline” in the face of resistance by the Islamic Republic.

In a speech on Wednesday Salami said: The enemy is caught between two bad choices. If it stays it will pay a high price, and if it leaves that would be a retreat. If the enemy stays in Yemen, it will be defeated and if it leaves, that would be desertion.”

In the Islamic Republic jargon “enemy” means the United States and its allies, such as Israel or Saudi Arabia.

Salami who often makes boastful statements went on to say that Iran has defeated the US economic sanctions, has achieved political successes, and has defeated the enemy “in psychological warfare”.

The IRGC commander claimed that “America has been defeated even in tactical sense. The most modern army in the world has retreated from Afghanistan, leaving behind most of its weapons.”

Iranian media on Wednesday expressed jubilation at what it described as Houthi military success in Yemen, saying one more town in Marib region has fallen. Iran has backed the Houthis, providing weapons, drones and missiles to the rebel group that is fighting a Saudi-led coalition.

 

IRGC Navy Holds Parade With Hundreds Of Fishing Boats

In an unorthodox military move, Iran’s Navy conducted a naval parade in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday using hundreds of local fishing boats and its military speed boats.

The parade was on the 41st anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war that the Islamic Republic calls “Holy defense”. Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard presided over the naval parade that took place in the Bandar Abbas region.

Naval parade of "Baseej" fishing boats in Bandar Abbas, September 22, 20121

The local fishing boats are dubbed by the Iranian military as “naval Baseej” or paramilitary, as regular Baseej (Basij) under IRGC’s command is known throughout Iran. One naval commander told local media that 650 civilian boats took part in the show.

It is not clear what kind of a military role the “naval Baseej” can play. It is made up of slow-moving fishing boats with civilian crews, lacking proper military training or heavy weapons.

Lacking a strong navy capable of facing US naval power, Iran has been relying on speed boats that have often come close to US vessels to show their defiance. Iran has also been developing various missiles and drones to beef up its naval power.

Iran Says Ready To Buy Pfizer Vaccines 9 Months After Khamenei's Ban

Iran has decided to import two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine made in Belgium nine months after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British Covid-19 vaccines.

An official of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration told Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the government intends to buy the Pfizer vaccines if it can transfer the money, given US banking sanctions on Iran.

Khamenei banned the importation of American and British vaccines in January saying that he does not trust the United States and the United Kingdom. He brought up a conspiracy theory that the West can manipulate the vaccines to destroy “the Iranian gene”.

After a fourth and a fifth wave of the pandemic killed tens of thousands of people, the Islamic Republic in August changed course, saying that Khamenei had only banned vaccines made in US and UK, and if manufactured in other countries, it can be imported.

Iran’s claims that it can produce its own domestic vaccines also proved to be unrealistic, despite huge investments by the government.

Until the end of April, the United States never exported vaccines made in the US, supplying international markets from production plants overseas, but Iran still refused to place orders. As a result, its vaccination program seriously lagged behind until this month when China began shipping large quantities of its vaccines.

Iran Releases Dissident Rapper On Bail After Social Media Outcry

Prosecutors in Iran on Tuesday freed a dissident rap singer from jail on bail after whose arrest led to a social media storm and controversy among Iranian activists and journalists abroad.

Toomaj Salehi an underground rapper living near Esfahan was arrested reportedly by Iran’s intelligence ministry on September 13. After a few days the family and his lawyer found out that he was in Esfahan’s central prison and charged with propaganda against the regime.

Toomaj had recently released a song, “Buy a Rat Hole”, on social media that harshly criticized the Islamic Republic for its violations of human rights and also those that he said were aiding the regime in covering up its crimes. The song’s title and lyrics implied that people applying or supporting injustice one day must answer for their crimes.

Some journalists abroad accused the rapper of threatening those who cover up the government's injustices, while others said such an accusation could endanger the artist's life.

Thousands of Iranians on social media condemned his arrest and Amnesty International demanded his immediate release in a statement on September 17.

In a video Toomaj released immediately after he was freed, he thanked all those who supported him, and he expressed astonishment that his arrest had led to a large public outcry.

Iran Wants Nuclear Talks That Lead To Lifting Of US Sanctions -Raisi

Iran wants a resumption of nuclear talks with world powers to lead to the removal of US sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) told the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday in a pre-recorded address.

"The Islamic Republic considers the useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive (US) sanctions," Raisi said in his address.

Hardline cleric Raisi, who is under personal US sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses in his past as a judge, said the US sanctions, imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, "were crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic."

The official government news website IRNA quoted Raisi as saying, the January events at the US Capitol and images of Afghans falling from American planes in Kabul sent a message to the people of the world that “America’s domination both at home and abroad is not credible.”

Harsh sanctions reimposed by Trump since 2018 have prompted Tehran to violate the deal's limits. However, Tehran says its nuclear steps are reversible if Washington lifts all sanctions.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear pact stopped two days after Raisi was elected as Iran's president in June. Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to announce when the next round of negotiations will resume. However, Tehran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers in Vienna to reinstate the nuclear pact would resume in a few weeks.

Biden Says US Will Prevent Iran From Getting Nukes, But Ready To talk

The United States will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, at the same time reiterating his intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal.

The President who pledged to rely on diplomacy in international affairs, said, “The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.  We are working with the P5+1 to engage Iran diplomatically and seek a return to the JCPOA.  We’re prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same.”

Biden during last year’s presidential campaign repudiated president Donald Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 nuclear agreement and pledged to return to it if Iran stopped its retaliatory activities since 2019 violating the deal.

His administration entered indirect talks with Iran in April to reach an agreement on how the two sides could restore the JCPOA, but the talks so far have failed to make a breakthrough.

Diplomats were expecting a meeting of JCPOA members this week in New York, but since Monday both the European Union and Iran have said only bilateral talks would take place. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to meet his French and British counterparts.

India Seizes $2.72 Billion Of Afghan Heroin Shipped From Iran

Indian officials said on Tuesday they had seized nearly three tonnes of heroin originating from Afghanistan worth an estimated 200 billion rupees ($2.72 billion) amid the chaos following last month's takeover of the country by the Taliban.

Afghanistan is the world's biggest illicit opiate supplier, but since taking power, the Islamist Taliban have said they plan to ban the drug trade, without giving details on how.

The containers had been declared as containing semi-processed talc stones from Afghanistan and had been shipped from Bandar Abbas Port in Iran to Gujarat Mundra port, the Gujarat official said, adding that forensic tests confirmed the presence of heroin.

Two people had been arrested in connection with the haul and investigations were ongoing, an official in Gujarat said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak publicly.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), India's top anti-smuggling agency, seized two containers at western Gujarat's Mundra Port on Sept. 15 after receiving intelligence they contained narcotics, the official said.

"Investigation conducted so far has also revealed the involvement of Afghan nationals, who are under investigation."

The narcotics were headed to Delhi and the two arrested people had sought an import-export licence based on a house address in Vijayawada, police in Vijayawada said in a statement on Monday.

More than 2,988 kg of heroin was recovered in one of India's biggest such hauls to date.

Reporting by Reuters

Iran Says Nuclear Talks Will Resume 'In A Few Weeks'

Iran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear deal would resume in a few weeks, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

"Every meeting requires prior coordination and the preparation of an agenda. As previously emphasized, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to IRNA.

Khatibzadeh added that the Iran’s foreign policy team must complete its final overview about the nature of the talks, before returning to negotiations.

The world powers held six rounds of indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna to try and work out how both can return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. The talks stopped in June, pending the start of Iran's new government, but one month after the cabinet was formed Tehran has not issued an exact date about its return to the negotiations.

Asked if the nuclear issue will be discussed in a multilateral framework in New York, the spokesman reiterated that Iran would hold bilateral talks with the parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement, JCPOA. Earlier, EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had said no collective talks would take place.

Tehran Plans To Lock Waste Containers To Prevent Garbage Picking

Tehran municipality is planning to put locks on large waste containers in the streets to prevent garbage pickers from accessing waste, a city official told Iran’s ILNA news website on Tuesday.

With the rise of poverty, the number of people sifting through waste containers for food or other items has increased in Iran. Anecdotal information say even former middle class people who still have cars, stop and look through waste containers in the streets.

Iran’s economy has deteriorated in the past decade and specially since 2018, when the United States imposed fresh sanctions to force Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Sadroddin Alipour, director of Tehran’s waste management company said that the municipality has decided to change waste containers or place them in a double haul that could be locked.

Thousands of children go through the streets of the capital to pick through garbage. Hamshahri newspaper reported that there are 4,700 children picking waste in Tehran and some of them are employed by people who make profit from what citizens throw away. Many children in Iran are street beggars or garbage pickers instead of going to school.

The same phenomenon exists also in other cities. In Bojnourd, a small city of 210,000 residents, the municipality estimated that are 600 garbage pickers.

Biden Admin Report To Congress Shows Drastic Impact Of Iran Sanctions

A non-public report submitted by the Biden Administration to Congress in September confirms that US sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration on Iran drastically reduced Tehran’s trade with the world, The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday.

The report is not classified but not released publicly. Free Beacon obtained a copy and reported that Iran’s $46 billion trade in 2019 was cut to $28 billion as US oil export and banking sanctions persuaded most countries to restrict their dealings with Tehran. Iran’s oil exports and trade had begun to shrink in 2018, when former President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2108 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

The information is not new and even the Iranian government has been reposting loss of trade and revenues, but it is an official confirmation by the Biden Administration about the effectiveness of sanctions in reducing Iran’s financial resources.

President Joe Biden during last year’s presidential campaign strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the reimpostion of sanctions.

After taking office his foreign policy team launched indirect talks with Tehran in April to revive the deal. So far, the talks have failed to achieve a breakthrough, but the US has said it is willing to lift the most effective sanctions, to convince Iran to abandon its retaliatory measures of breaking uranium enrichment limits set under the deal.

UK 'Will Not Rest' Over Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iran Detainees Minister Says

AP - London - Sept 20 - UK Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said on Monday that Britain would "not rest" until all its dual nationals being held in Iran were returned home.

He said the UK's new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was due to meet her Iranian counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later on Monday, and call for the immediate release of UK nationals such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

"I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations and we will continue pushing and pushing and pushing until we get our British dual nationals home," he told British broadcaster Sky News.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been held Iran since 2016, on spying charges, which she has always denies.

Her husband, Richard, said he had talked with Truss on the phone on Sunday and that it was unclear how negotiations with Iran would go.

He described his wife as feeling "disorientated" with the recent UK government cabinet shuffle and that she had felt former Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had been making some headway with her case.

He said they were still waiting for a date for an appeal over her second prison sentence.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's is currently staying with her mother in Iran.

Iran's VP In Women's Affairs Disagrees With Limiting Child Marriage

President Ebrahim Raisi’s vice president in women’s affairs has refused to support an age limit in child marriage arguing that other factors such as mental and social growth should play a role.

Ensiyeh Kazali, known as a religious conservative, in her first press conference on Monday said that she married when she was 16 years old.

Child marriage is a controversial social and political issue in Iran, as Islamic law in essence allows girls who are nine years old to be wed, based on a tradition that prophet Mohammed married a girl who was nine years old.

Vice presidents in charge of women’s affairs have usually been more protective of women’s rights and have advocated a legal age limit for children’s marriage, but Khazali, daughter of an ayatollah, apparently follows the ideology of most Moslem clerics in Iran who do not believe marriage for girls younger that 13 should be forbidden.

She has been one of the opponents the UNESCO 2030 agenda that advocates equality in education and access for females and all social groups.

Child marriage has increased in Iran in recent years, partly linked to growing poverty. The Statistical Center of Iran reported last month that marriage of girls aged between 10-14 increased by 10.5 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, with more than 31,000 cases in one year.

Family Of Detained Rapper In Iran Concerned About His Life

Iranian dissident rapper, Toomaj Salehi, who was detained on September 13 was arrested by the intelligence ministry in Esfahan, family sources have told Iran International. They are extremely worried about the safety of the young singer.

The underground rapper was apparently arrested for his latest song distributed on social media, condemning the Islamic Republic for oppression and those whom he accuses of whitewashing its crimes.

Iran International has also learned that the singer known with his first name Toomaj is being kept in the central prison in Esfahan. His lawyer Amir Raisian was quoted by a website in Iran as saying that he does not have exact information about charges his client faces, but “unofficially his father was told he is accused of propaganda against the regime.”

In his song, “Buy a rat hole”, Toomaj without naming individuals refers to those whom he accuses of perpetrating injustice or justifying it, from regime "agents" and "executioners" to political groups such as reformists in Iran and the US-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

The Washington-based group condemned Toomaj’s arrest on September 16, after many on social media criticized indifference toward the latest crackdown on freedom of speech.

Amnesty International has also condemned the arrest in a statement issued September 17. Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi has also slammed the arrest, saying that protest artists are reflecting public opinion in Iran in favor of a regime change.