Second dead body found in Ahwaz Uni in Iran raises deep concern among students | Iran International

Second dead body found in Ahwaz Uni in Iran raises deep concern among students

The Chamran University in the Iranian city of Ahwaz has issued a statement saying it is looking into the cause of death of two of its students after the hanged body of the second student was found on the campus.

The deaths come amid rising tension in Iran’s universities where students have been holding rallies to condemn the bloody crack down on recent anti-government protests, in which at least 216 people were killed by security forces, according to Amnesty International.

Tens of student activists have been arrested by Iran’s intelligence ministry in the aftermath of the protests that took place in more than 90 cities.

The Chamran University’s head of office of students affairs Babak Mohammadian has said the deaths of the two student is not related to the protests. However their timing and suspicious circumstances have led to some students activists claim that they are a warning from the state to deter them from further rallies on Friday, the Students Day in Iran’s political calendar.

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.

Zarif In Moscow To Discuss Iran Nuclear Deal With Lavrov

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Moscow Wednesday, September 23 to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov about developments concerning the 2015 nuclear agreement that faces serious challenges.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency close to the hardliner Revolutionary Guards quoted Zarif as saying upon his arrival that Russia and China have played “a leadership role in standing up to the United States at the UN Security Council for breaking laws.

The US abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018. Washington announced recently that it considers suspended UN sanction against Iran restored. Russia, China and European powers oppose the US move.

Zarif added that there is close coordination between Tehran and Moscow, and this is his third visit during the coronavirus pandemic. His trips to Moscow are useful to keep in close touch “with Russian colleagues” and accomplish coordination, he said.

Iran’s foreign minister also referred to Syria emphasizing the need for consultations with Russia and continue the Astana process between the two countries and Turkey, another country involved in the Syrian conflict.

Zarif dismissed media reports that France has asked him to discuss the crisis in Lebanon with Russian officials, saying these reports are “laughable”.

US Grants Iraq Another 60-Day Exemption To Import Energy From Iran

The United States has granted Iraq another 60-day extension to an exemption from sanctions allowing it to import Iranian gas for its crippled power grids, AFP reported on Wednesday quoting and Iraq official. 

Baghdad relies on gas and electricity imports from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its electricity sector, worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance.

The US blacklisted Iran's energy industry in late 2018 after it pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran but has since granted its ally Baghdad a series of temporary waivers to stave off country-wide blackouts.

In May, Washington granted Iraq a four-month extension as a gesture of good will towards Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who had just formed a cabinet seen as more US-friendly than its predecessor.

The US has pressured Iraq to use the waivers to become independent from Iranian energy, specifically by partnering with American firms, and had been frustrated by the slow progress under the previous premier Adel Abdel Mahdi.

While Kadhemi's cabinet has sought to fast-track such deals, it has been unable to stem the near-daily rocket and IED attacks on Western military and diplomatic interests. Iranian backed Shiite militias are accused of being behind these attacks.

On his trip to Washington in August, Kadhemi scored agreements with various US firms for energy development across Iraq, including Chevron, Baker Hughes, Exxon and General Electric. 

As OPEC's second-biggest producer, Iraq relies on crude exports to fund more than 90 percent of its state budget, but this year's price collapse has seriously undermined the government's fiscal position.

In a further blow, coronavirus has spread across the country, with more than 330,000 confirmed cases and 8,700 deaths announced by the health ministry. 

Reporting by AFP

Concerns About Execution Of Another Political Prisoner Heidar Ghorbani

After the executions of political prisoners Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari for their participation in countrywide protests, there is now concern about the execution of another political prisoner, Heidar Ghorbani, whose death sentence has been confirmed and the state media has referred to him as a “terrorist”.

As warnings about his possible execution began to spread online, the regime’s Young Reporters Club published a video calling Ghorbani a terrorist and an extortionist.

Iranian state media had provided similar scenarios in the case of Navid Afkari and Mostafa Salehi and had called them murderers.

Heidar Ghorbani is an Iranian Kurdish citizen who has been convicted of the “murder of several members of the Revolutionary Guards.” He was arrested in 2016.

Ghorbani’s death sentence was recently confirmed by the supreme court. He has also been accused of “membership in the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan” and also “armed rebellion”.

His family has released video messages reporting that he has been forced to confession under severe physical torture and asking for help to stop the execution.

Ghorbani’s attorney, Saleh Nikbakht says his case contains no evidence of extortion and terrorism.

Yesterday, Amnesty International warned about the possibility of Ghorbani’s secret execution, and in a letter to Ebrahim Raeesi, demanded a stay of execution for the 47-year-old prisoner.

In all the recent cases of executed political prisoners, there have been reports of forced confessions under torture and lack of evidence for the supposed crime.


Nasrin Sotoudeh Was Returned To Prison From Hospital

Reza Khandan, husband of incarcerated human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh reported that after five days in the hospital, she was returned to prison despite her terrible health condition.

Khandan tweeted on Wednesday that Nasrin Sotoudeh “was returned to prison in worst health condition without any medical treatment” and added that “this action is only intended to put her life in danger.”

Sotoudeh was transferred to Taleghani hospital five days ago due to heart problems. He has gone on a hunger strike in the past 40 days in protest to the terrible condition of political prisoners.

Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to serve only the longest sentence of 12 years imposed for "encouraging corruption and debauchery." She has also been convicted of espionage.

Sotoudeh won the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.


France, UK, Germany Summon Iranian Ambassadors In Protest To Incarceration Of Dual Citizens

The governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom have summoned the Iranian ambassadors in their countries to express their protest to the condition of political prisoners in Iran and also the arrests of dual citizens by the Islamic Republic.

Guardian reported on Wednesday that it has seen a draft of the UK Foreign Ministry’s letter to Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador in London, which criticizes Iran’s policy of “arbitrary arrests” and points out that this issue seriously undermines Iran’s international standing.

According to the Guardian, in the same week Bahram Ghasemi and Mahmoud Farazandeh, Iranian ambassadors to Paris and Berlin were also summoned and received similar criticisms.

The letter from the British Foreign Affairs Ministry points out in addition to human rights violations and political prisoners in Iran, British citizens, including dual citizens, are mostly held in these prisons in terrible conditions without any justification.

However, the three countries did not clarify whether these violations of human rights by the Islamic Republic would impact their support for the 2015 nuclear agreement known as JCPOA.

The letters could be in response to increased pressure by the IRGC security forces on dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe who is currently under house arrest in Iran and has been charged with espionage.

Referring to the execution of Navid Afkari, the three European governments also stated that all citizens must have the right and the freedom to express their opinions.