DNI-NEWS Digest - 6 Jun 1998 to 7 Jun 1998

There are 8 messages totalling 636 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Trial of Tehran mayor opens amid tight security 2. Tehran mayor stuns court with claim prosecution trumping up sex charge 3. Tehran mayor denies corruption charges as trial opens 4. FW: MKO, Taliban and Nateq Nuri 5. BBC on Karbaschi's Trial 6. Excerpts from Karbaschi's Trial Proceedings 7. 'Iran Daily' on Karbaschi's Trial 8. IRNA Chief on Journalistic Freedom

Trial of Tehran mayor opens amid tight security

TEHRAN, June 7 (AFP) - The trial opened Sunday amid heavy security, of the popular reformist mayor of Tehran Gholamhossein Karbaschi, on corruption charges.

Security forces were deployed inside the Imam Khomeiny law courts complex in the city centre where the trial began at 9:00 a.m. (0430 GMT). Police were also guarding the streets round the building to discourage demonstrations or incidents.

The mayor accompanied by his lawyer arrived looking relaxed and smiling to the 50 or so journalists of the Iranian and foreign press who will follow the public trial.

The hearing began with the ritual reciting of verses from the Koran, the Moslem holy book.

The trial is presided by a magistrate from the Shiite clergy, Hojatoleslam Mohseni Ejei, who heads the court responsible for judging offences committed by public officials.

Karbaschi,44, a supporter of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, has been charged with corruption and with embezzling public money for political purposes.

Under the terms of the indictment read out in court, he was also relieved of his duties as mayor for the duration of the trial.

His arrest and detention for 11 days in April triggered a major political crisis between the mainly moderate government and the judiciary dominated byt the conservatives.

The moderates have condemned what they say is a "political" trial aimed at weakening the government.

The first session of the trial was expected to take all Sunday morning.

Tehran mayor stuns court with claim prosecution trumping up sex charge

TEHRAN, June 7 (AFP) - Tehran mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi provoked astonishment at the first hearing in his trial for corruption Sunday with a claim that the prosecution was trumping up a sex charge against him.

Karbaschi said the investigating magistrate had put pressure on a female employee of the municipality, whom he identified only by the initials M.A., to testify that he had had adulterous relationships with other female staff.

The mayor, a prominent supporter of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, said the woman had been "detained alone in a cell and subjected to psychological pressure" to make the allegation from the witness box.

Karbaschi, who is charged with fraud, embezzlement, diversion of public funds, mismanagement and "despotic and dictatorial behaviour," dismissed the charges as "lies" and questioned the competence of the judge who prepared the case against him.

Sunday's hearing lasted nearly four hours and is to resume on Thursday.

Tehran mayor denies corruption charges as trial opens

TEHRAN, June 7 (AFP) - Tehran's reformist mayor rejected corruption charges and denounced "political scheming" on the opening day of his trial here Sunday in a case which has rocked the Islamic regime.

Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, who has headed this metropolis of some 10 million people since 1989, was formally charged with fraud, embezzlement, diversion of public funds, mismanagement and "despotic and dictatorial behaviour."

One of Iran's most influential politicians, the 44-year-old Tehran mayor was also accused of using municipal funds to help finance the election campaigns of moderate candi

he was

relieved of his duties as mayor for the duration of the trial, a move dismissed by Karbaschi in court as "unimportant."

Security was tight for the start of the trial in the downtown Imam Khomeini judicial complex and police moved in quickly to disperse some 200 to 300 supporters and opponents of the mayor who tried to stage protests outside.

A number of anti-Karbaschi demonstrators shouted: "Death to the mayor, death to inflation," while supporters cried: "Long live Karbaschi, long live President Mohammad Khatami."

Accompanied by his lawyer, the salt-and-pepper-bearded Karbaschi arrived looking relaxed and smiled at the 50 or so members of the Iranian and foreign press attending the public trial.

The hearing began with the ritual reciting of verses from the Koran, the Moslem holy book.

The trial is presided by a magistrate from the Shiite clergy, Hojatoleslam Mohseni Ejei, who heads the court responsible for judging offences committed by public officials.

As the trial opened, Karbaschi rejected the charges against him as "lies," questioned the competence of the judge who compiled the case against him and denounced "political scheming" by conservative opponents in the judiciary.

He also condemned "confessions obtained by force and illegal pressure," a reference to claims made against him by former colleagues who have been imprisoned for months as part of a wide-ranging probe into corruption.

The mayor was specifically accused of diversion of public funds amounting to around five million dollars, illegal sales of building permits and destruction of wooded areas for property speculation.

Karbaschi said the prosecution was trying to trump up a sex charge against him by detaining and "putting psychological pressure" on a female employee of the municipality to testify he had adulterous relationships with other female staff. He identified the employee only by the initials M.A.

Sunday's hearing lasted nearly four hours and is to resume on Thursday.

The hearing was broadcast in its entirety with a brief time delay by nationwide state radio. State television summarized the hearings in its midday news report and is likely to give it more attention on evening debate programs.

The open trial of Karbaschi, a key supporter of President Khatami, is unprecedented since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

His arrest and detention for 11 days in April triggered a crisis between Khatami's mainly moderate government and the conservative-dominated judiciary.

Karbaschi benefited from an exceptional mobilization by the moderate wing of the government during his incarceration and demonstrations of support were held at Tehran Univerity, sparking clashes with hardline Islamists.

The mayor was released from prison on the orders of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following a request from Khatami and against the wishes of the judiciary which had wanted him remanded in custody until his trial.

There have been no official indications as to how long the trial will last, but aides of the embattled mayor said it could be weeks or even months.

The trial comes just as the government tries to put on a show of unity after a series of bomb attacks on public buildings here claimed by the People's Mujahedeen, the largest armed opposition group.

Iranian newspapers devoted wide coverage to the trial on Sunday.

"The mayor defends the construction and prosperity of Tehran," said the mass-circulation Hamshari (Citizen), organ of the municipality.

"How can one be sure this is a judicial and not a political case?" asked the moderate Abrar. -=-=-

ClariNet news now includes comprehensive news and photo coverage from the Associated Press (AP), instead of Reuters material. You can expect even broader and deeper news than before, with a shorter reporting delay.

FW: MKO, Taliban and Nateq Nuri

IRNA: PERSIAN: 98/06/07, 21:42 MINUTE: CONFIRMED THE NEWS REPORTED BY TNN ON 98/04/13. Apparently, according to Al-Hayat newspaper, MKO and Taleban have signed a contract to bobm Iranians inside and outside Iran.

Asghar ----------
MKO, Taliban and Nateq Nuri

According to TNN, Nateq Nuri is preparing the ground for the MKO female militia to attack Imam Reza's Shrine with the help of the Taliban male militia. There have been rumours that Ayatullah Muhammad Yazdi has read a temporary contract of marriage between each Taliban male and MKO female Mojahed under the supervision of King Fahad and Uncle Sam. Inshallah Mobarak Bada! Yar Mobarak Bada!

The offspring are expected to be some sort of "Visitors". Soon we are going to have "V" signs on the walls of Tehran City Hall in the absence of Karbaschi.

Kar-o-Kargar wrote that the Mujahedeen Khalq Organization, (MKO) by getting closer to the Taliban militia, is trying to use cities in Afghanistan as a safe haven and base for conducting terrorist activities. It went on to say that according to informed sources the MKO is propagating its ideology throughout Afghanistan by publishing 2000 pamphlets containing its doctrines. Taliban has also published 25,000 pamphlets propagating its own beliefs. Since Tehran and Baghdad are trying to improve relations, it seems that MKO is seeking a new base in order to continue its efforts to desta-bilize the Islamic Republic, concluded the paper.

The ruling Taliban militia is considering giving assistance to armed Iranian opposition forces to launch attacks against the Islamic Republic from western Afghanistan's borders. An Afghan source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "A four-member Iranian opposition squad visited western Afghanistan two weeks ago accompanied by three Afghan guides." The source noted that Taliban have decided to let Iranian opposition groups be stationed in the areas under their control. The Taliban Justice Chief Mulla Torabi had earlier warned Iran that the militia would let armed Iranian opposition forces establish bases in the border region. Torabi condemned Iran for what it called Tehran's support to the northern-based anti-Taliban resistance, which favors the ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani. In line with incoming reports, the official Taliban Radio in Kabul has been calling for its militia to support the Iranian oppo-sition while denouncing Tehran's alleged support for forces loyal to President Rabbani.

Tehran - The open session of the Majlis chaired by the Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri Sunday ratified the general outlines of a one-clause addendum to the 6th article of the 4th chapter of the press laws.

In case the bill is approved in the second hearing, the "use of women as a tool" either in the form of picture or content, humiliation or insult of women, encouragement of luxurious lifestyles, discrimina-tion between man and woman by defending women's rights outside the framework of religious legal bottleneck will be added to the difficulties fac-ing the press. For example the term "use of women as a tool" does not have a clear-cut definition in law and its limitations have not been specified.

Minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ata'ollah Mohajerani also spoke of the reasons for opposing the proposals and said the current Press Laws already encompass the essence of the bill and argued that it is not necessary to ratify this bill. On the other hand, th limit of the term "use of women

BBC on Karbaschi's Trial

Sunday, June 7, 1998 Published at 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK

World: Middle East

The BBC's Jim Muir on a 'spirited' defence

The mayor of Tehran, Gholam Hussein Karbaschi, may have looked as though he had not slept for a while, but he put up an extremely spirited defence.

After listening to the corruption charges laid against him, he rose and did battle with the white-turbaned and bearded judge presiding over the court in the Iranian capital.

Mr Karbaschi, a leading figure in the reformist camp within the Iranian regime, vehemently denied all the charges, describing them as absolute lies.

He engaged the judge in a long and heated dispute over whether the previous court and this one had competence in the case.

Questioned in detail over allegations that municipal funds had been diverted for personal and political purposes, he answered adamantly that no wrong-doing had taken place.

Trial attracts huge interest

This case, which was adjourned until Thursday, has stirred nationwide and indeed international interest.

The courtroom was jammed with reporters and cameramen and hundreds of other people crowded in outside rooms to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

Mr Karbaschi is a well-known public figure here, popular for his work as mayor, in which position he is deemed to have improved life in the city for many people.

The arrest in April of this leading reformist triggered a furore among the moderates. He was instrumental in helping to bring about the landslide election victory of President Mohammed Khatami last year.

His supporters saw this prosecution as an act of revenge by the hardliners who dominate the judiciary.

Few Iranians see this as a purely judicial case. Most will read the outcome as an important indicator of which way the political winds are blowing.

Excerpts from Karbaschi's Trial Proceedings

Sunday, June 7, 1998 Published at 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK

World: Middle East

Iranian radio broadcasts trial of Tehran mayor

Iranian radio on Sunday 7th June broadcast a recording of the first hearing in the trial of Tehran mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi, who stands accused of corruption. The following are excerpts from the proceedings, which lasted nearly four hours.

Details of charges against the accused

[Clerk of the court] In view of the above points and the totality of evidence and documents, as well as the details of the case, Mr Gholamhoseyn Karbaschi, son of Mohammad Sadeq, birth certificate number 56732, issued in Qom, born in 1332 [1953-54], married, Muslim, literate, Iranian, mayor suspended from office, is accused in this case of:

1. Involvement in the misappropriation of funds to the sum of 14,530m rials, plus 90,000 American dollars, 60 full Bahar-e Azadi coins, and 80 half Bahar-e Azadi coins.

2. Involvement in the receipt of bribes.

3. Abuse of public property and the infringement of people' s rights.

4. Staking illegitimate claims to public property.

5. Connivance in the course of government transactions and transferring illegitimate property.

Mayor rejects charges as "baseless nonsense"

[Judge Mohseni Ezhe'i] The first charge against you is: you are accused of involvement in the misappropriation of funds to the sum of 14,530m rials, as well as 90,000 American dollars and 60 full Bahar-e Azadi coins and 80 half Bahar-e Azadi coins. Do you accept this charge or not?

[Karbaschi] May I speak?

[Judge] You may speak. That is what it means when I ask a question. Do you accept this charge or not?

[Karbaschi - begins to recite prayer] "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Oh God, grant me self-sufficiency within myself and grant me certitude in my heart"...

[Judge - interrupting] Could you answer me first. Do you accept it or not?

[Karbaschi] This cannot be the way things are done. Just saying: will you answer me or not. I have things to say in court. Do you want me to say what I have to -

[Judge - interrupting] You can say what you have to say. There is nothing wrong with that. You will -

[Karbaschi - interrupting] I do not accept any of the points you raised. It is all baseless nonsense. And I have explanations to present to the court.

Competence of court questioned

[Karbaschi] On the whole, I should let you know that, for various reasons, I do not accept that this court has jurisdiction over this case. Before investigation begins on this case other investigations should be carried out by disciplinary and military courts to find out about irregularities. If investigations by those courts show that irregularities have indeed taken place, then...

[Judge - interrupting] All the existing evidence will be submitted. You did not ultimately explain disciplinary or non-judicial irregularities...

[Karbaschi - interrupting] All the confessions submitted to you have been gathered together by force, under pressure and using illegal methods...

[Judge - interrupting] OK, please excuse me, if you see that I base my judgement merely on those remarks, then you can say that the judgment is erroneous because it has been based on confessions by those people. But, you will see that I am not going to base my judgment merely on what they have said.

[Karbaschi] I do not want to raise doubts about your fairness or the methods you are using. But, as your excellency knows, the information which is available to a judge is crucial ...

Trial adjourned until Thursday

[Judge]: It is now 10 minutes before one o'clock, and I shall now adjourn the hearings. I once again request all the people who are present here not to come forward under any circumstances, and the gentlemen who are sitting behind the chain should leave via the exit door behind them. The accused and his defence lawyers must come and sign the minutes prepared by the court. No-one should come forward. The next hearing has been scheduled for next Thursday [11th June] at 0900 in the morning at this same place.

Iran Daily' on Karbaschi's Trial

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 8, 1998

Karbaschi slams charges as "baseless"

Competency of court under question

Tehran - On the first day of the trial of Tehran Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi at the special judicial complex in downtown Tehran, the munici-pality chief dismissed the graft charges leveled against him by the court as being without sub-stance.

Responding to the list of charges read out by presiding judge Hojjatoleslam Mohseni Ejei, he called the charges "base-less" and "lies".

Karbaschi said that, "The court lacks the competency to handle this case and is devoid of any sense of justice and neutrality. I view Numeiri, the (first) presid-ing judge who compiled the file, as a corrupt judicial official. He, along with several other court officials, have attempted to nega-tively influence my case."

The mayor, who under the terms of the indictment was tem-porarily relieved of his adminis-trative duties for the duration of the trial, is charged with embez-zling a total of more than 14.5 billion rials plus $90,000 and 140 gold coins. In addition he has to answer probes for allegedly receiving bribes, mishandling and taking illegal possession of public property and misconduct in government transactions.

During the morning court ses-sion, both Karbaschi and Mohseni held several heated exchanges in the packed court-room. In one remark, the mayor said, "The processing of my file was handled under the assump-tion that I'm already guilty. The fact that you are both a judge and a prosecutor is also a violation of the law."

When asked by Mohseni as to where he got the information, Karbaschi responded by saying that the minister of justice told him that handling dual functions in a courtroom violates the law.

Karbaschi added, "When I was arrested back in April, I was treated differently from all the other mayors. But in the interest of the system and all those mar-tyrs who shed their blood for us, I won't read the letters of those mayors, describing what the interrogators did to them. All the confessions were obtained under pressure."

Karbaschi also protested the judge's decision not to allow vis-itation rights to his attorney, dur-ing his incarceration.

One of the mayor's two defense attorneys, Masoud Haeri, con-curred with his defendant's posi-tion that the court is incompe-tent, citing the fact that Mohseni is performing several conflicting functions.

He also objected to the judge for disrupting Karbaschi's state-ments on several occasions.

The 11-day arrest of the Tehran mayor from April 4-15, created a political uproar within the coun-try. Karbaschi's supporters staged rallies that led to clashes with hardliners and the print media was sharply divided into pro and con camps.

His release from Evin Prison came on the orders of the Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, follow-ing a request by President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami. This was against the wishes of the judiciary which wanted him remanded in custody until his trial.

According to Reuters, the mayor who has been in office for nine years, enjoys wide popular-ity for his ambitious plans for turning Tehran into a modern metropolis. This has angered conservatives who see the trans-formation as hurting their bazaar merchant allies and promoting western culture.

Karbaschi's trial will resume on Thursday.

IRNA Chief on Journalistic Freedom

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 8, 1998

Journalism is an art, not a profession

Tehran - Managing Director of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Fereydoun Verdinejad said here Sunday that news writing and reporting is a work of art and not a profession. It follows that an artist cannot be forced to work with-in strict guidelines.

Addressing the heads, managers and editors of IRNA's news zone one, Verdinejad said reporting, being present in a critical environment, facing dan-gerous situations, defending the rights of the system and the people and moving towards the hopes and ambitions of the nation is only possible through passion, commitment and job satisfaction.

Referring to the importance of news reporting, he said that at IRNA every moment is different from the next. Every news item sent on line by the orga-nization comes under close scrutiny from various angles, including that of competitors, as well as prejudiced and ignorant enemies.

"Those who define news dissemination within the framework of power and self-promotion, cannot distinguish between news and propaganda.

These are the people who try to polarize the orga-nization," he said.

Verdinejad noted that the success of IRNA lies in the culture of accepting responsibility, reciprocal understanding among the management, decentral-ization and working in tandem.

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 6 Jun 1998 to 7 Jun 1998