Following last month's murky claims about al-Qaeda biggie Sulaiman Abu Ghaith having been sheltered by Iran, Canadian authorities now want us to believe that two guys busted by the RCMP—Chiheb Esseghaier in Montreal and Raed Jaser in Toronto—were plotting to blow up a Via Rail passenger train under the "direction and guidance" of al-Qaeda agents in ...Iran. At their hearings April 23, the men denied the charges. Iran's foreign ministry said groups such as al-Qaeda have "no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields." (National Post, Canadian Press, April 23) This is rather obvious given the bitter sectarian war on Iran's borders with Iraq and Pakistan. Yet the RCMP portrays a "state-sponsored" terror plot.
Tehran and Islamabad will sign an agreement March 11 for Iran to build the largest refinery in Pakistan, a $4 billion facility at Gwadar in the country's southwestern Balochistan province. (See map.) The refinery, projected to handle 400,000 barrels per day, will be linked to the planned Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline, with an extension to western China envisioned. China last month took over operational control of Gwadar's port, where a major expansion is planned. China's Great United Petroleum Holdings Company (GUPC) has agreed to conduct the feasibility study for a "petrochemical city" project in Gwadar. A pipeline from Gwadar to China would reduce the time and distance for oil transport from the Persian Gulf to Chinese markets. (Asia Times, March 6)
Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and al-Qaeda's one-time media voice Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was seized by CIA agents and taken to the US after Turkey deported him to Jordan this month, it was revelaed March 7. AFP reports that Abu Ghaith was seized by Turkish authorities last month at a luxury hotel in Ankara after a tip-off from CIA, and was held there despite a US request for his extradition. Turkey apparently deported Abu Ghaith to Jordan on March 1 to be sent back to his native Kuwait, but he was seized by CIA agents in Jordan and taken to the United States. In a revelation that could be convenient for the slowly mounting war drive, it appears that before arriving in Turkey, Abu Ghaith had been in Iran...
The Iranian Parliament on Feb. 3 voted 192-56 to impeach the country's labor minister, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, because he appointed an official who was implicated in the deaths of anti-government prisoners in 2010. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that this constituted an abuse of power by parliament speaker Ali Larijana. Larijana is the leader of the conservative party in the parliament, which has been in a power struggle against Ahmadinejad. Lawmakers sought to impeach Sheikholeslami after he appointed former chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to the head of the Social Security Organization. Mortazavi had been suspended from his post as chief prosecutor in 2010 after a parliamentary inquiry found that he was responsible for the deaths of three prisoners who were arrested during anti-government protests after the country's disputed presidential election.
A group of independent UN human rights experts on Friday urged Iran to stop the execution of five Ahwazi activists. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Ahmed Shaheed stated that the execution of Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Shabain Amouri and Hadi Rashidi is unacceptable. They have been sentenced on charges of enmity against God, corruption, and propaganda against the government.
Iranian authorities on Jan. 2 advised the 1.5 million residents of Isfahan to leave the city if they can because air pollution has reached emergency levels. (BBC Radio, Jan. 2) Tehran's Air Quality Control Company also warned Jan. 2 that air pollution in the capital has also reached alarming levels, and ordered elementary schools and daycare centers closed in the city due to heavy smog. (Mehr News Agency, Jan. 1) Early last month, Tehran residents were likewise urged by authorities to lave the city in response to "dangerous" smog levels, blamed on nearly incessant bumper-to-bumper traffic. Similar edicts were issued for Isfahan and Arak. Schools were also ordered closed, and a cabinet meeting in the capital cancelled. Hospital admissions during the smog alert jumped by 15%, primarily due to people suffering headaches, respiratory problems and nausea. (AAP, Dec. 6; IBT, Dec. 5; AFP, Dec. 3)
Iranian lawyer and prominent human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh on Dec. 4 ended a 49-day hunger strike in protest of her prison conditions and a travel ban imposed on her family. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had expressed concern for Sotoudeh's deteriorating health and urged the Iranian government to lift the travel ban, saying it was not justified by international law. After judicial authorities agreed to lift the travel ban on Sotoudeh's daughter, Sotoudeh ended her strike. Sotoudeh was sentenced in January 2011 to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of "acting against national security" and "making propaganda against the system" for which she will serve five and one years, respectively. The remaining five years of her sentence result from allegations that she was a member of the Human Rights Defenders Center, an organization originally founded by Shirin Ebadi and four other Iranian lawyers, many of whom have also been detained or otherwise punished for their work. In addition to her prison term, Sotoudeh's punishment also requires that she refrain from leaving the country or practicing law for the next 20 years. Sotoudeh has spent a large part of her detention in solitary confinement.
Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities to protect all detainees and prisoners from harassment and degrading treatment, after nine female political prisoners—including some deemed "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty—started a hunger strike Nov. 1 in response to alleged abuse by prison guards. The women, all held in Tehran's Evin Prison, include activists and journalists. They say they were subjected to humiliating and degrading body searches and had personal belongings conficated by female guards from the Prison Security Section the day before they began their strike. The women plan to continue their hunger strike until they receive a formal apology from the prison authorities, return of their belongings, and guarantees that such incidents will not happen in future.