Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 19 Dec 1999 to 23 Dec 1999 - Special issue

There are 18 messages totalling 1523 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. Rafsanjani Sees End to Iran, U.S. Hostility
2. Manifesto of Grouh-e-Towhidi-e-Defae az Mostazefin for the forthcoming
election for the Majles
3. Rafsanjani backs amnesty for former mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi
4. Shabe Yalda
5. Rafsanjani force of unity in Iran poll
6. Culprits of Chain Murders Will Be Punished, Says Former Information
Minister
7. Iran Pollution Reaches Danger Level
8. US worried Iran will rein in Hizbullah only temporarily
9. fyi:Millennium's last full moon should be a beaut
10. Reformist Criticizes Iran's Leader
11. Jailed Iranian minister attacks judiciary
12. Fw: SMCCDI: Comments Regarding a Report by RFL/RL Iran about Mr.
Ahmad Batebi
13. Jailed Iran Cleric Questions Anti-US Stand
14. Iran dissident cleric appeals jail term
15. Iranian film wins best documentary award
16. Tehran mayor: Long-term project to combat air pollution in Tehran
17. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Council
18. RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 50, 20 December 1999

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:14:11 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Rafsanjani Sees End to Iran, U.S. Hostility

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a
front-runner in parliamentary elections, Tuesday forecast warmer
relations with the United States and said talks could begin if
Washington freed Iranian assets.

Rafsanjani's comments came one day after jailed reformist cleric
Abdollah Nouri questioned Iran's anti-U.S. stance and challenged the
country's supreme clerical leader in an open letter published by
newspapers.

``I do not see a breakthrough in the coming months, but eventually the
rupture in ties will end. The problem has to be resolved one day,'' said
Rafsanjani, who stepped down as president in 1997 after two terms.

``The way to get there is clear. America has to show goodwill. I
personally see the unfreezing of Iranian assets as a sign of America's
goodwill,'' he told a news conference.

The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Iran after militant students
seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1981, taking 52 Americans hostage.
Washington retaliated by freezing Iranian assets, estimated by Iran at
several billion dollars.

Rafsanjani, a prominent figure in post-revolutionary Iran, said he
believed Iran would already be negotiating with the U.S. if Washington
had released the money.

``If the Americans had done this, we would have taken action toward
negotiations. This has always been my stance,'' he said.

Rafsanjani, who heads an advisory body to supreme clerical leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his position did not necessarily reflect
Khamenei's views. Khamenei, who has the final say on state matters, has
opposed talks with the U.S.

Since the election in 1997 of reformist President Mohammad Khatami,
tensions between the two countries have eased and they have resumed
social and sports contacts.

But Iran has rejected repeated U.S. offers for official dialogue,
demanding practical steps to crack the ``wall of mistrust'' between the
two governments.

If elected to parliament in next February's vote, Rafsanjani is likely
to be made speaker.

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 00:34:17 +0000
From: "a.abdi" <a.abdi@BTINTERNET.COM>
Subject: Manifesto of Grouh-e-Towhidi-e-Defae az Mostazefin for the forthcoming
election for the Majles

Manifesto of Grouh-e-Towhidi-e-Defae az Mostazefin for the forthcoming
election for the Majles in Iran.

The group will actively support only those candidates for the positions
of MPs who reject the existance of a male God who has sent male prophets
to set up patriarchal suystems to legalise male dominance as an eternal
and heavenly order. Since all of the candidates have signed a form which
confirms their belif in Islam, we expect them to describe their
definition of islam in a way that makes God appear imaprtial. In other
words, we favour those candidates who come up with answers to our
following questions regarding Islam.

Since the Quran gives such an impression to us, we have no choice but
either to reject the authenticity of the Quran or the impartiality of
the author of the Quran.

A) How many of 124,000 prophets of Islam were female? We have the names of less than 100 prophets mentuioned in the Quran and hadith books. What are the names of the other prophets including women?

B) Why did Muhammad fail to name female prophets of Islam? Did he hate women in the same way as the official Muslem clerics in the Islamic world?

C) Why did Muhammad make laws to benefit himself and his male companions?

D) If they consider the language and tone of the Quran to be dependent on the culture of the people of Arabia at that time, then what should be the source of social laws for our time? In other words, should laws be man-made ones or should they be set by God?

Sumnmary: We reject all religions which talk of male-only God, prophets, Imams, leaders, presidents, MPs, clergy and administrators. We prefer those which are not biased on the grounds of gender.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:10:29 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Rafsanjani backs amnesty for former mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi

TEHRAN, Dec 21 (AFP) - Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
on Tuesday backed the possibility of a pardon for former Tehran mayor
Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who is in prison on corruption charges.

"There is a possibility for an amnesty and I would support it," he told a
press conference in the Iranian capital, adding that he had met the former
mayor on two occasions last week.

Karbaschi returned to his Tehran prison earlier this month after being
allowed to return home for a week to rest, as permitted under the Iranian
penal code.

The meetings between Rafsanjani and Karbaschi came as the former president
announced he would run in the key parliamentary elections in February.

Rafsanjani is likely to get solid support from both conservative and
moderate groupings, including the Executives of Construction party (ECP),
to which both he and President Mohammad Khatami are closely linked.

The 44-year-old Karbaschi, a close Khatami ally and one of the ECP's
founding members, was sentenced in July 1998 to five years in prison,
later reduced to two years on appeal.

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 16:18:59 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Shabe Yalda

Hello everyone,
Let me wish you a happy Yalda, tonight is a special night since the earth
is on it's closes position to Sun and the moon if you are able to see the
moon, you will see it brightest than EVER before (actually the last time it
was 130 years ago that the moon was so bright and the next time it will
happen will be in 2130). So if you have the posibility, go out for a walk
and enjoy this magical night (unfortunately, for me it is not possible to
see the moon here in NY, because it is rainy tonight!).

Have fun, and celebrate this magical Yalda which is also the last Yalda of
the century by reading a nice poem of Hafez and eat some "aajil" and
"tokhme" while watching the huge and bright moon from your window.

bA ehterAm,
/Farhad

Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 19:36:29 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Rafsanjani force of unity in Iran poll

ANALYSIS-Rafsanjani force of unity in Iran poll 10:24 a.m. Dec 19, 1999
Eastern

By Mehrdad Balali

TEHRAN, Dec 19 (Reuters) - By entering Iran's parliamentary contest,
former President Akba Hashemi Rafsanjani has moved to contain rivalry
between factions and protect the Islamic system against calls for deep
change, politicians say.

A prominent figure in post-revolutionary Iran, Rafsanjani stepped down
as president in 1997 and now heads a powerful advisory body to supreme
clerical leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He has said his decision to run in the February polls, announced on
Wednesday, was prompted by a sense of duty to his country and the 1979
Islamic revolution.

His allies hope the veteran pragmatist can bring consensus and stability
to a parliament that is sharply divided between supporters and opponents
of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

RAFSANJANI SEEN AS STABILISING FORCE

``Rafsanjani is independent and non-partisan, and also very mature and
experienced. All factions can work with him,'' conservative parliament
deputy Ali Movahedi-Savoji told Reuters.

Many believe Rafsanjani's weighty presence could sideline Islamic
hardliners and radical reformers, and forge a solid mainstream faction
more in tune with the system.

``The (hardliners) are unfamiliar with the real problems our people are
facing, like poverty and high unemployment. They do not have a
programme,'' MP Gholamabbas Alikhani told Reuters.

``Radical reformers, on the other hand, want to go beyond the system and
the constitution, something our people are not ready for,'' Alikhani
added.

Khatami's more impatient allies have sought swifter and deeper reforms
but their demands have met resistance from conservatives, who sense a
threat to the Islamic system.

Relying on the president's popularity, reformers are hoping to unseat
the parliament's conservative majority in the February 18 poll and give
impetus to Khatami's liberal reforms.

``Our people are young, curious and a little impatient to get what they
want,'' Reza Khatami, the president's brother and member of a leading
reformist group, said in a recent speech.

A record 6,860 hopefuls, ranging from religious hardliners to
entertainers, have signed up to run in the polls, reflecting the greater
political participation under Khatami.

RADICAL REFORMERS WARY OF RAFSANJANI

Radical reformers fear that Rafsanjani's presence in the assembly could
slow Khatami's liberal reforms, which are already stumbling in the face
of hardline opposition.

Although backing reform in principle, the former president has
criticised calls for unrestricted democracy which he says could
destabilise the system.

He also alienated reformers by failing to avert the imprisonment of two
moderate allies - former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi and
leading reformist cleric Abdollah Nouri, a former interior minister.

If elected, Rafsanjani, who headed parliament for much of the 1980s, is
likely to be made speaker again.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:10:09 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Culprits of Chain Murders Will Be Punished,
Says Former Information Minister

Culprits of Chain Murders Will Be Punished, Says Former Information
Minister

Tehran Times
By Irfan Parviz

12/20/1999

TEHRAN - "All the culprits involved in the serial (political) murders last
year have been identified and will definitely be punished," said former
Information Minister Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.

Speaking in an exclusive interview, Dorri-Najafabadi scoffed at the rumors
that the killers had Fatwa', or religious decree, for the killing of four
political dissidents and writers.
"It's absolutely nonsense, because there was no Fatwa at all," he said,
adding that Fatwa is never issued for such purposes.

The former information minister said that the rumors regarding Fatwa have
been spread by anti-revolutionaries and aliens. "No cleric would get
involved in these un-Islamic, immoral and illegal activities, and the
rumors are part of the plots hatched by the Western propaganda machine
aimed at sowing the seeds of discord in our society," he stressed.

Dariush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh were stabbed to death in their
residence on the night of Nov. 21, 1998. Later, two dissident writers and
poets Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja'far Pouyandeh were also
assassinated in mysterious circumstances.

Right after the murders, President Khatami ordered the formation of a
three-member committee to probe the incidents and identify the culprits.
The entire nation was shocked when the Information Ministry announced in
Jan. 1999 that some of its rouge agents had committed the murders. Among
those agents arrested was Saeed Emami, also known as Eslami, who worked as
deputy information minister under Dorri-Najafabadi's predecessor Ali
Fallahian.

While in jail, Emami was reported to have committed suicide by drinking a
hair removing solution.

Asked why those involved in the serial murders have not been put on trial
yet, Dorri-Najafabadi said that the Judicial Organization of the Armed
Forces is currently investigating the case, adding that the culprits will
stand trial in due course and receive their deserved punishment.

The former information minister resigned from his portfolio last February
and was replaced by Ali Yunesi.

Dorri-Najafabadi, 54, also commented on the forthcoming Majlis elections
and said, " I hope the Iranian people, like in the previous elections,
will massively turn out in the Sixth Majlis elections. He was a Majlis
deputy and also chairman of the parliamentary Plan and Budget Commission
from 1992 to 1996.

Referring to the candidacy of former president and head of Expediency
Council for the next Majlis, he said, " The candidacy of Mr. Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani has infused new life and interest into the forthcoming
elections.".

"-Mr. Rafsanjani has always been and will remain a valuable asset to the
nation," he stressed. Dorri-Najafabadi hoped that former president
Rafsanjani will win the election and administer the Majlis affairs in a
proper way.
"Mr. Rafsanjani has devoted his entire life to the Islamic Revolution and
its noble objectives," he pointed out.

Regarding the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Dorri-Najafabadi said,
"The political atmosphere should be kept healthy, and the people should
have the opportunity to vote for their favorite candidates.

"The supervisory boards of the Sixth Majlis elections should ensure that
the election process will not be influenced by any biased or partial
attitudes," the soft-spoken and white turbaned cleric noted.

Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 19:35:24 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iran Pollution Reaches Danger Level

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iranian authorities have asked people to stop driving
to work and take public transportation because air pollution has reached
dangerous levels in the capital, the official news agency reported Saturday.

The Islamic Republic News Agency did not give the pollution level in
Tehran, but said the quantities of carbon monoxide, suspended particles and
other
pollutants had increased considerably and were expected to climb higher
during the next few days.

Earlier this month, the authorities closed kindergartens and elementary
schools and imposed traffic restrictions because of pollution in Tehran.

Last year, several thousand schools were shut down after air pollution
reached more than six times the acceptable level set by the World Health
Organization.

Most of the cars in Tehran are more than 20 years old and they lack the
exhaust filters of modern vehicles. According to official estimates, cars
account for 75
percent of Tehran's pollution.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:13:41 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: US worried Iran will rein in Hizbullah only temporarily

US worried Iran will rein in Hizbullah only temporarily By Janine
Zacharia

WASHINGTON (December 21) - The US fears Iran will instruct Hizbullah
guerrillas to "lay low" for several months to give the impression they
have halted their attacks on Israel, but will reactivate them once an
Israeli-Syrian peace agreement is signed, a US official said yesterday.

He said the US expects Hizbullah, under a new strategy, to try to
infiltrate the border discreetly rather than bombard the North with
Katyusha rockets.

These concerns have fueled a US strategy to mend tattered ties with
Iran, severed two decades ago. The US has hoped for a fresh start in
US-Iranian relations since the 1997 election of President Mohammed
Khatami, who is perceived as a reformer.

After the first round of Israel-Syrian talks last week, US and Israeli
officials said that both sides had pledged to rein in terrorist elements
who may try to thwart the peace process.

Iran has rebuffed several recent US attempts to build ties, but the US
is continuing its efforts, the official said. "President [Bill] Clinton
sees Iran as crucial to the peace process," he said.

On January 16, Iran's soccer team will travel to the US to play an
exhibition match against the American side. As a face-saving gesture,
Iranian players will not be fingerprinted upon arrival, as is required
for all incoming Iranian visitors.

In a separate gesture last year, the US added to its terrorism group
list the Mudjahedin e-Khalq, a violent Iranian political opposition
group based in Iraq, a move that pleased the Iranian government.

And despite an economic embargo, the Clinton administration has allowed
Boeing Co. to provide Iran's national airline with parts to upgrade its
fleet of 747 passenger aircraft.

The official said progress on the Israel-Syrian track would also help
the US mobilize Arab opposition against Iraq. "When the peace process
moves forward, we have more freedom of action on Iraq," he said.

On Friday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that could send
UN inspectors back to Iraq and ease Gulf War sanctions if Baghdad
cooperates with new disarmament personnel. The Iraqi government has
condemned the resolution and said it will not comply.

Nevertheless, the US is hopeful that European nations and Russia, eager
to see the sanctions lifted so they can do business with Iraq, will
persuade Iraq to comply in the long run, the official said.

For now the US is hailing the UN vote as a victory, since it reaffirms
international support for the return of UN monitors who were forced out
of Iraq last year.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:12:03 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: fyi:Millennium's last full moon should be a beaut

December 17, 1999 Web posted at: 1:51 p.m. EST (1851 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The final full moon of the millennium comes December
22 on the first day of winter and during the closest lunar approach to
the Earth, but the combination is not as rare as some people have
thought, experts say.

Sky and Telescope magazine reports on its Web site that people have been
sending e-mail and faxes insisting that the combination of closeness to
Earth and the winter solstice will make next Wednesday's full moon the
brightest in more than a century.

Not so, says Roger W. Sinnott, associate editor of the magazine.

Approximately the same combination of things happened in December 1991,
and it was very close to the same in December 1980. Furthermore, the
full moon passed nearer to the Earth in 1930 and 1912 than in this year,
Sky & Telescope says.

"This is a cool combination of things and the poet in me loves it," Sten
Oldenwald, an astronomer who works for Raytheon at the Goddard Space
Flight Center in Maryland, said in an interview Thursday. "But it is not
particularly rare."

The winter solstice, which occurs when the tilt of the Earth's axis puts
the sun directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, comes every December. It
marks the first day of winter. Oldenwald said it is not unusual for the
full moon to come within 24 hours of the solstice. Perigee, when the
moon is closest to the Earth, also happens quite often in December, he
said.

"About every 10 years or so you will get approximately this
combination," he said. "It will happen five to seven times in a
lifetime."

The full moon on Wednesday will be at its closest approach to Earth in
about 70 years, but it will take an exceedingly sharp eye to spot any
difference from an average full moon, Oldenwald said.

The moon makes an elliptical orbit of the Earth, ranging on average from
about 227,000 miles away at the closest to about 254,000 miles at the
farthest. On Wednesday night, the full moon will be 221,620 miles from
Earth.

In January, 1930, the full moon perigee was about 160 miles closer,
according to Sky & Telescope. The magazine said the record closeness for
a full moon was on January 4, 1912, when the lunar sphere was 221,447
miles from Earth.

"The full moon would have been about 25 percent brighter than average in
1912," said Oldenwald, "but I doubt that you could have told the
difference with the naked eye."

People living near the ocean may notice that the tides may run slightly
higher than normal on Wednesday because of the perigee full moon, said
Oldenwald. But even that is not unusual.

"Beach front property owners should be attuned to it," said Oldenwald.
"If you live on the beach and you remember 1991 when this last happened,
well it is going to happen again."

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:16:38 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Reformist Criticizes Iran's Leader

By AFSHIN VALINEJAD Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A popular jailed reformer criticized Iran's supreme
leader and condemned the chanting of anti-American slogans as insulting,
useless and unnecessary in a letter published Monday in Iranian
newspapers.

``What have we benefitted as a nation from slogans like 'Death to
America?''' Abdollah Nouri wrote in the letter from Evin Prison dated
Dec. 17. ``Have these slogans developed our economy or promoted our
national policy and culture? Would it be fair if other countries chanted
slogans wishing death to our country?''

Nouri also criticized Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's support of the special
clergy court and said the leader should not consider himself above the
law.

Khamenei has defended the court, which last month sentenced Nouri to
five years in prison on charges including religious dissent and
advocating better ties with Iran's enemies, the United States and
Israel.

Several Iranian papers published excerpts from the letter. Nouri's own
paper, Fatth, published the full text.

``The special clergy court is not part of Iran's constitution and ... is
illegal and no one can make it legal,'' Nouri wrote. ``The supporters
(of this court) should make clear to the honorable Iranian nation that
in their opinion the supreme leader is above the will of the nation and
can put the will of the nation under his feet.''

On Friday, Khamenei criticized Nouri for his calls to tone down
anti-U.S. rhetoric.

``That man, with his corrupted pen, is trying to prove that the U.S. is
not the enemy of our nation and that we have to compromise,'' Khamenei
said before thousands chanted, ``Death to America.''

The hard-line clerical court convicted and jailed Nouri in an apparent
bid to stall President Mohammad Khatami's social reforms, which include
efforts to promote democracy. Nouri, a former interior minister and a
key Khatami ally also had his paper, Khordad, closed as part of the
sentence. Fatth opened in its place last week.

Since his landslide election in 1997, Khatami has pushed for political
reform, calling for an easing of strict social codes and greater freedom
of speech. Khamenei, who leads the hard-liners, has used his absolute
powers to stall reforms.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:16:04 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Jailed Iranian minister attacks judiciary

By Jim Muir in Tehran

The jailed former Iranian Interior Minister, Abdollah Nouri, has
attacked the special clerical court which last month imprisoned him for
spreading anti-Islamic propaganda.

Mr Nouri, a close associate of the reformist president Mohammed Khatami,
said in an open letter that the use of violence, intimidation and
coercion by the authorities was driving people away from religion.

His lawyer has lodged a request with the public prosecutor to quash the
verdict and re-hear the case.

Mr Nouri, who was jailed for five years, wrote the letter from his
prison cell to explain to the Iranian people why he had decided not to
appeal against the special clerical court's verdict.

Pseudo-judicial

He said to do so would have been to endorse the legitimacy of an
institution which he described as a pseudo-judicial and illegal body
which had conducted what amounted to a medieval inquisition rather than
a fair trial.

Mr Nouri repeated his argument that the court had no basis in the
constitution and that the country's supreme leader did not have the
legal right to endorse it.

That is a view regarded as a heresy by hardliners. They hold that the
supreme leader has absolute powers.

Turning to the issues raised during his trial, Mr Nouri said the
establishment's efforts to impose obedience to Islamic practices had
failed. Violence, intimidation and coercion had led to revolt rather
than compliance, especially among the ever growing masses of the young.

He ended by saying he was confident that what he had published in his
banned newspaper Khordad and said in his defence at the trial,
represented but a small part of the just demands of the people.

Book sales

That such statements could be made and widely published shows how much
things have changed since President Khatami took office two and a half
years ago.

A book based on Mr Nouri's defence at the trial has also sold tens of
thousands of copies in Iran, re-printing constantly ever since it came
out.

The outspoken former Interior Minister may have been jailed but he
hasn't been silenced. More than one Iranian commentator has pointed out
that in the past, such dissident figures would simply have been
liquidated.

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 23:18:46 -0800
From: "Aryo B. Pirouznia" <aryopirouznia@EMAIL.MSN.COM>
Subject: Fw: SMCCDI: Comments Regarding a Report by RFL/RL Iran about Mr.
Ahmad Batebi

Comments Regarding a Report by RFL/RL Iran about Mr. Ahmad Batebi


SMCCDI
Press Release


December 21, 1999


In its December 20th weekly report (Vol. 2, No. 50) and in a article titled
“ Despite death sentences, Students still support Khatami” ;
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Iran based in Prague (Czech Republic) has
quoted the SMCCDI that the news concerning the death sentence against Mr.
Ahmad Batebi was false.

This report was broadcasted amid SMCCDI’s news dated 12/19/1999 and after
having launched a worldwide campaign of protest in order to save Ahmad
Batebi from his death sentence.


The RFE/RL Iran’s report might be misleading to those who are not familiar
with the State-sponsored miss-information campaigns of the Islamic republic
of Iran; And might convey the message that the death sentence was never
more than a rumor.

However, the news concerning the death sentence was published in several
Iranian newspapers as they have also been quoted by RFE/RL Iran. It was
only after the worldwide publicity and a massive campaign by Human Rights
activists that the regime claimed that the death sentence was never
“officially” issued.


Why else would the regime dispatch a high ranking member of the
Intelligence
ministry to visit the Batebi’s family and to reveal that the news of death
sentence was due to the “irresponsibility of some members of the Ministry.”
?


At any rate, in order to avoid contributing to the miss-information
services
of the Islamic Republic, SMCCDI invites the RFE/RL Iran and its auditors to
read, again, the SMCCDI news titled: “ Death sentence against the "Hero of
the Economist" canceled ” at:

http://www.iran-daneshjoo.org/cgi-bin/smccdinews/viewnews.cgi?category=2&id=945635685


The SMCCDI would like to remind all, once again, the episode surrounding
Mr.
Faradj Sarkuhi as just one example among many others which did not receive
the same publicity in the Media.

Mr. Sarkuhi was kidnapped by the regime and after a unprecedented wave of
international protest the Islamic Regime suddenly took him to a staged
press
conference in the Tehran airport claiming that he had just returned from
Germany and Turkmenistan. This claim was later rejected by the German
immigration services as well as by Mr. Sarkuhi himself.

Contradictory statements are a way of life for the Islamic Republic when
faced with a massive wave of protest. There is absolutely no doubt that
the international publicity surrounding this episode saved Mr. Sarkuhi’s
life.


We sincerely thank the RFE/RL Iran editor and writers for their invaluable
services and we hope that in the future they will take in to consideration
the chaos facing the judicial system and the climate of repression in Iran.


In closing, we urgently request of all those who support the cause of the
freedom and human Rights to protest the unjust incarceration of Mr. Batebi.

He has been sentenced to ten years in prison for the “crime” of desiring
freedom in Iran and for being pictured on the cover of the Economist.


Likewise, we request of all the socially responsible media, in particular
the RFE/RL and the Economist to champion Mr. Batebi’s cause and to publicly
demand his immediate and unconditional freedom from the Islamic jails and
tortures.



" The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran "

www.iran-daneshjoo.org


Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:20:17 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Jailed Iran Cleric Questions Anti-US Stand

By Ali Raiss-Tousi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Jailed reformist cleric Abdollah Nouri questioned
Iran's anti-U.S. stance and challenged the country's supreme clerical
leader in an open letter published by newspapers Monday.

``What material or religious advantage has our people gained from
slogans such as 'Death to America'?... Is it a principled stand to
isolate the country and block foreign and domestic investment?,'' Nouri,
jailed on dissent charges by a hardline court, said in the letter
written in his prison cell.

Nouri -- sentenced on charges that included advocating renewed ties to
Iran's arch-foe, the United States -- remained defiant, saying all he
had said and published was ``only a small part of the righteous demands
of the people.''

The letter came days after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
reiterated Tehran's hostile stance against Washington.

Nouri rejected as illegal the hardline Special Court for Clergy, which
last month jailed him for five years. He also responded to recent
remarks by Khamenei, who backed the court.

``The (supreme leader), like any other citizen, is subject to the laws
of the country and cannot tread outside the law. The activity of the
Special Court for Clergy... is a clear example of stepping outside the
realm of law,'' Nouri said.

Nouri's letter, addressed to Prosecutor General Morteza Moqtadaei, was a
new challenge to Khamenei, who controls the court which is independent
of the judiciary.

Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, is seen as
close to conservatives opposed to reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
But he usually stays above factional rows.

Nouri Refuses To Appeal To ``Illegal'' Court

Nouri, a popular mid-ranking Shi'ite Muslim cleric close to Khatami,
said in the letter he refused to appeal his sentence to the clerical
court and was instead turning to the judiciary.

Nouri's lawyer said Sunday he had appealed the case to Moqtadaei. There
has been no comment from the prosecutor or the clerical court on the
case.

It is rare for the judiciary to interfere with rulings of the clerical
court.

Nouri was sentenced after a closely-watched trial that turned into a
forum for discussion of such sensitive issues as legal limits on the
powers of the supreme leader and the rights of dissident clerics and
groups.

Nouri's backers say the trial was aimed at preventing him from running
in the crucial parliamentary polls on February 18. Nouri, the top
vote-getter in Tehran city council polls this year, was touted by
reformers as the future parliament speaker.

Moderates hope to use Khatami's popularity to wrest control of
parliament from conservatives opposing his liberal reforms.

Nouri has signed up for the polls. No one in Iran has run for parliament
from jail since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 19:37:11 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iran dissident cleric appeals jail term

Iran dissident cleric appeals jail term -lawyer 11:22 a.m. Dec 19, 1999
Eastern

TEHRAN, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Leading Iranian reformist cleric Abdollah
Nouri has appealed a five-year jail term imposed by a hardline court on
dissent charges, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Mohsen Roham told reporters he had convinced Prosecutor-General Morteza
Moqtadaei to accept the case.

There was no immediate confirmation of the status of the case by the
prosecutor's office nor any comment from the clerical court which
sentenced Nouri.

Nouri, a popular mid-ranking Shi'ite Moslem cleric close to President
Mohammad Khatami, was jailed last month by the Special Court for Clergy
which also closed his outspoken daily newspaper, Khordad.

Nouri says the clerical court is illegal. It is independent of the
judiciary and Nouri has refused to lodge his appeal there.

It is rare for the judiciary to interfere with rulings of the clerical
court, which answers to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

``After consulting officials we decided to turn to a legal tribunal for
investigation,'' said Rohami, who said he had met Khatami and former
President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the past few days.

``I formally asked Mr Moqtadaei to probe the case and cancel the
ruling,'' he said.

Nouri was sentenced after a closely-watched trial that turned into a
forum for discussion of such sensitive issues as limits on the powers of
the supreme clerical leader, the rights of dissident clerics and groups
and renewed ties with Iran's arch-foe, the United States.

Reformists say Nouri's conviction was aimed at preventing him from
running in the crucial parliamentary election on February 18.

Nouri, the top vote-getter in Tehran city council polls this year, was
touted by reformers as the future parliament speaker.

Moderates hope to use Khatami's popularity to wrest control of
parliament from conservatives opposed to his liberal reforms.

Nouri has signed up for the polls, although no one in Iran has run for
parliament from jail since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

``The verdict is not final, so Nouri cannot be denied of his right to
run,'' Rohami said.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:12:40 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iranian film wins best documentary award

Tehran, Dec. 20, IRNA -- 'Life in the fog' made by Bahman Gobadi won the
best documentary award in the 14th international film festival in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida which ended November 14.

According to a report by Farabi Cinema Foundation, 'Life in the fog'
along with Shabban Children (French made) shared the first place.

'Life in the fog' has won several prizes in some of the most reputable
world's international film festivals.

Fort Lauderdale's 14th international film festival was held October
25-November 14.

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:13:14 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Tehran mayor: Long-term project to combat air pollution in Tehran

Tehran, Dec. 21, IRNA -- Tehran mayor Morteza Alviri said a long term
project has been formulated to combat air pollution in Tehran which will
be launched in less than two months time.

Speaking at a meeting with residents of district one, Alviri said since
1993 three plans have been offered by the World Bank, Japanese experts
and Iranian environmentalists.

With the combination of the three plans and through cooperation of the
environment protection organization, a 15-year project has been drawn up
and is ready for implementation, Alviri further added,

He said the project which will go on stream in a one and a half month
time will cost Iran $2.2 billion.

The mayor said that air pollution in Tehran has been developed over the
past half a century parallel with the development of the city.
Therefore, he added, combat with the pollution too will take long and is
not possible within a short period.

According to the mayor, 1.5 million tons of pollutants are being
produced in the capital city annually which he said will be controlled
in the first year of the implementation of the said project.

Alviri said 72 percent of the pollution is caused by traffic which can
be reduced by the traffic organization through practicing mechanisms
such as preventing travel of vehicles producing exhaust fumes, banning
traffic within certain zones, and carrying out compulsory technical
check up for the cars.

Stressing that construction is illegal on flood passages, he said in
future such regions will be turned into green areas and centers for the
public entertainment.

Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 17:48:40 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Council

BY MEHRDAD SERJOOIE

TEHRAN -- Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Council, last
Wednesday registered himself as a candidate from Tehran for next February's
parliamentary elections.

Declaration of his candidacy did not surprise the reformist newspapers who
had started attacking him and calling him politically ineffective long before
Mr. Rafsanjani registered his name with the Tehran Governorate.

It was also natural for the conservative faction to welcome Rafsanjani's
re-entry into active political life.

Political analysts believe that his re-entry was encouraged by well-known
political figures including President Seyed Mohammad Khatami. To support this
claim, analysts point to the recent statement made by President Khatami's
Bureau chief, Hojjatoleslam Seyed Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who said: "Hashemi
Rafsanjani is like the alphabet of the Islamic Revolution."

Rafsanjani's candidacy will inevitably create a division within the ranks of
the reformists (leftists). The signs of such a division are already beginning
to appear. For example, Hamshahri newspaper, run by the Executives of
Construction Party (ECP) and a staunch supporter of Mr. Hashemi, dedicated
its editorial on December 11 to him and wrote voluminously in his praise. But
Sobh-e Emrooz daily, on the same day, published interviews with Abbas Abdi,
journalist and member of the Islamic Iran Partnership Party (IIPP) and Mohsen
Armin, member of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (IRMO) who
strongly attacked Rafsanjani and his policies.

ECP, IIPP and IRMO are all prominent reformist groups with supposedly the
same goals and objectives under the Khordad 2 Front (May 23, 1997) umbrella.

A number of analysts believe that backing Rafsanjani will cost President
Khatami a lot of public support, specially among the youth who play an
increasingly important role in the politics of this country. Rafsanjani
opponents also have the luxury of time to attack him further before the
elections are held. The reformists (leftists) also harbor a grudge against
Mr. Rafsanjani.

They have not forgotten that in the Fourth Majlis he collaborated with the
conservatives and almost totally excluded the Left from the effective seats
of political power. They are suspicious of Rafsanjani and do not want him to
play an active role in Iranian politics. The reformists are also critical of
Rafsanjani's economic policies, his silence regarding the events that took
place during his two terms as President, such as the serial murders of
intellectuals. They blame him for keeping quiet during the trials of former
Tehran Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi and former Interior Minister Abdullah
Nouri, and feel that he aggrandized his economic achievements at the expense
of political and social development, and in view of the failure of his
economic programs, they object to his being nicknamed "Champion of
Construction" by his supporters.

The fact is that Mr. Rafsanjani has always operated behind a wall of secrecy
and silence, which could account for his being portrayed as a secretive and
rather negative political figure. At the same time, he is considered to be
among the more moderate Iranian politicians, and he did try to help Karbaschi
but his efforts proved to be futile in the face of the determination of those
who had decided to remove the former mayor from the political scene.

Karbaschi's conviction was a great blow to Rafsanjani and he tried to stand
by the former mayor. In his Friday Prayer sermon in the summer of 1998,
Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized the judge presiding over the Karbaschi trial,
but immediately faced the wrath of certain pressure groups that insulted him
and told him not to interfere in the affairs of the Judiciary.

All said and done, Mr. Rafsanjani's greatest immediate problem is overcoming
the public resistance to his election. The people blame his two
administrations for the spiraling inflation, mismanagement of the national
wealth and its unfair distribution, as well as his open and rampant nepotism,
specially regarding his sons' activities in the national economy.

Hashemi Rafsanjani will undoubtedly be among the 30 successful candidates
from Tehran. The question is where will he be placed, on top or at the bottom
of the list of Tehran MPs? His ranking among MPs is very important to him
because he is not the run-of-the-mill candidate or MP. He is a seasoned and
unique politician who measures his position and political stature by gauging
the public opinion. If he hopes to once again run the Majlis, he must get the
majority of votes in the February 18 parliamentary elections.

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 08:40:48 +0100
From: Abbas Samii <SamiiA@RFERL.ORG>
Subject: RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 50, 20 December 1999

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
_____________________________________________________________
RFE/RL IRAN REPORT
Vol. 2, No. 50, 20 December 1999

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional
Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

**********
HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRESS SLOW IN IRAN
SPECIAL COURT FOR THE CLERGY CRITICIZED
THE CLERGY, THE STATE, AND CORRUPTION
NURI APPEAL FACES PROBLEMS
RAFSANJANI AND PARLIAMENT
PROBLEMS WITH MUNICIPAL COUNCILS
**********


DESPITE DEATH SENTENCES, STUDENTS STILL SUPPORT KHATAMI
The Islamic Union of Students and Graduates has
announced that Ahmad Batebi and Akbar Mohammadi, who
previously had been sentenced to ten years imprisonment,
now have been condemned to death, "Manateq-i Azad" reported
on 11 December. Akbar Mohammadi is the brother of Manuchehr
Mohammadi, whose heavily edited "confession" was televised
in July, while a photograph of Batebi appeared on the cover
of the "Economist." These two individuals were subject to
torture, according to a 5 December report from the Student
Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, as
were a number of others who were arrested after the July
protests that rocked Iran. An internet campaign protesting
these death sentences was organized
(http://www.iran-daneshjoo.org/urgentaction/), but on
19 December the SMCCDI announced that news of Batebi's
death sentence was false.
Also commenting on what happened to the students in
July, East Azerbaijan Province Governor-General Yahya
Mohammadzadeh said that in Tabriz they had been rounded up
in mass arrests, "Asr-i Azadegan" reported on 15 December.
"We wonder why those involved in the attack on the
university have not been arrested and punished yet," he
asked.
Anger over such developments was seen during a student
gathering on 13 December. Afshari of the pro-Khatami
student group which is called the Office for Strengthening
Unity told the crowd, "We have kept our silence to avoid
creating tensions but the illegalities are continuing," DPA
news agency reported. The approximately 4000 students also
protested the imprisonment of Hojatoleslams Abdullah Nuri
and Mohsen Kadivar.
All the same, many Iranian students still support
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. This was
demonstrated when he addressed them on 12 December, having
missed a previously scheduled Student Day (7 December)
speech. About 15,000 people were at Tehran's Science and
Technology University to listen to Khatami. He told his
supporters "We need the active participation of students on
the political scene," and "If we want to achieve freedom
and independence, this can only be done by the active
participation of the people," according to Iranian
journalist Afshin Molavi.
In a later question-and-answer session, one observer
reported, Khatami said "If you want to attain something,
you must give martyrs." This seemed to answer questions
about the fate of Khatami's ally, Abdullah Nuri, recently
convicted to five years in jail.
While martyrdom is important in Shia Islam, Imam
Hussein did not die alone. This fact, when contrasted with
Khatami's statements and his refusal to criticize the
Special Court for the Clergy, led to some questions about
his commitment. An unsigned article in the 14 December
"Payam-i Azadi" asked: "Has Khatami Retreated?"
As Khatami spoke, hardline students chanting "Death to
America" were shouted down by reformist students. Khatami's
speech, however, had a decidedly anti-American tone: "When
we say that there exists a high wall of mistrust between us
and America, it is not a mere slogan. The Iranian nation
feels that Americans have dominated our destiny, at least,
from 28th Mordad 1332 [19th August 1953] until now. Doesn't
this nation have the right to blame all the losses, lives
lost, damages inflicted, and humiliation and insult that
the nation has been subjected to, on the incorrect American
policy?"
Statements like this merely perpetuate a tradition of
blaming outsiders for Iran's shortcomings. Saying this to a
group of students who must soon contend with Iran's high
unemployment rate, furthermore, smacks of rationalizing the
country's problems and seeking scapegoats. But after their
extensive participation in the 1997 presidential campaign
and in light of their actions in July 1999, it is clear
that Iran's students and young people will play a decisive
role in the February 2000 parliamentary elections. (Bill
Samii)


HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRESS SLOW IN IRAN
On Friday, 10 December, the international community
commemorated the 51st anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Releasing its annual report
one day earlier, Human Rights Watch said events this year
marked the beginning of a new era for fighting abuses of
fundamental freedoms worldwide.
Positive developments in Iran's human rights
situation, according to the HRW report, include the August
announcement by a group of prominent writers, editors,
publishers, and journalists regarding the formation of the
Association to Protect Press Freedom. Although it is not
officially recognized, it is able to function. Also, the
government registered the National Association for
Children's Rights in Iran.
Overall, however, progress in human rights is "held
hostage" by the "increasingly polarized conflict within the
leadership of the Islamic Republic," the report noted.
Also, efforts to reform the situation sometimes worsen it.
Political participation still is restricted to "supporters
of the clerical regime." The report was particularly
critical of press repression and the violence surrounding
the July demonstrations. Also, there are "credible reports
that use of torture remained widespread."
Religious issues continue to be a serious problem,
according to the report. In November 1998, police raided
facilities used by the Bahai Institute for Higher
Education, which taught Bahais who do not have access to
regular universities and colleges. As a result of this
raid, 35 members of the faculty were detained and four
received jail sentences of three to ten years. And 13 Jews
have been arrested on charges of spying for Israel.
A vehicle for persecuting prominent members of the
Shia majority who question the political system is the
Special Court for the Clergy. According to the HRW report,
the range of offenses brought before the Special Court
increased this year. In March, for example, the Special
Court "ruled that it would prosecute any newspaper that
even mentioned the name of Ayatollah Hussein-Ali
Montazeri," and in February, Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar
was tried before the Special Court for his journalistic
writings. (Bill Samii)


SPECIAL COURT FOR THE CLERGY CRITICIZED
At a Shiraz rally in support of the Special Court for
the Clergy, an unnamed speaker warned: "The ultimate aim of
the revolution's ill-wishers is that there should be no Ö
Special Court for the Clergy," "Kayhan" reported on 7
December. Renewed debate over the legitimacy of the Special
Court was one of the outcomes of Hojatoleslam Abdullah
Nuri's trial. The spring 1999 trial of Hojatoleslam Mohsen
Kadivar also elicited debate about the Special Court.
Guardians Council spokesman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati
defended the Special Court in his sermon at the 3 December
Tehran Friday Prayers. "The Special Court for the Clergy is
not contrary to the constitution," and "[it] was accepted
and established by the Imam [Father of the Revolution
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]. Ö Its verdicts are extremely
decisive and rational." He went on to say that Special
Court ensures that clerics are not above the law.
Two days later, according to IRNA, the Special Court's
chief, Hojatoleslam Gholamhussein Mohseni-Ejei also spoke
out in its defense. Mohseni-Ejei said that Articles 4, 5,
55, 107, and 110 of the constitution establish the court as
a legal body. Furthermore, the court's legitimacy is
derived from Khomeini and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei. Hojatoleslam Bahrami, deputy head of the Judicial
Organization of the Armed Forces, said the Special Court is
"fully legal," as are its verdicts. "It cannot be illegal,"
he said, because its was formed on Khomeini's orders and
backed by Khamenei, IRNA reported on 6 December.
International human rights organizations, however, are
less sanguine about the Special Court's legality. The
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights notes, for example, that
the court violates Article19 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, "Everyone shall have the
right to freedom of expression; this right shall include
freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
of all kinds." And a 1997 Amnesty International report
said: "The extraordinary nature of this court violates
international human rights standards which provide the
right for people to be tried by ordinary courts using
established judicial procedures."
At least some Iranians share that perspective. On
hearing the court's verdict against him, Nuri said: "Since
I do not deem the Special Court for the Clergy to be a
legal body, I do not care about the opinion of this
unlawful court and its jury" (see RFE/RL Iran Report," 15
November 1999). Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister
Ataollah Mohajerani, while not questioning the Special
Court's legitimacy, said he agreed with Nuri that it is not
qualified to deal with press offenses, IRNA reported on 29
November.
Ayatollah Seyyed Hussein Musavi-Tabrizi, Kadivar's
lawyer and formerly the chief prosecutor, told the 8
November "Arya" that when Khomeini appointed the Special
Court (in June 1987) it was appropriate for the time and
circumstances, but it no longer is. It was Hojatoleslam
Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri who wrote special laws for the
court after Khomeini's death, Musavi-Tabrizi said, and
Khamenei who approved them.
During Kadivar's trial, editorials in many newspapers,
such as "Sobh-i Imruz," "Khordad," and the provincial
"Payam-i Zanjan" pointed out, from a constitutional
perspective, that the existence of the Special Court is now
inadmissible. But it seems likely that the Special Court
will continue its activities as more and more senior
clerics challenge the way Iran is governed in the name of
Islam. (Bill Samii)


THE CLERGY, THE STATE, AND CORRUPTION
The Special Court for the Clergy is charged with
investigating cases of corruption, unlawful acts involving
clerics, "accusations that are incompatible with the status
of the clergy," and crimes that affect the reputation of
the clergy. The court can try laymen when clerics are
involved, too. Special Court chief Hojatoleslam
Gholamhussein Mohseni-Ejei, however, ignores malfeasances
committed by those with whom he is financially involved or
politically sympathetic. And the Guardians Council's recent
rejection of aspects of the Third Development Plan
indicates that such problems are system-wide.
Before coming to the Special Court, Mohseni-Ejei was
the judge in the high-profile corruption case of Fazel
Khodadad and Morteza Rafiqdust (brother of Mohsen
Rafiqdust, former chief of the Oppressed and Disabled
Foundation). Khodadad was found guilty of misappropriating
several billion rials and sentenced to death. It was not
clear how Khodadad, a low-level employee, would have access
to so much money, until the identity of his cohort was
revealed. Khodadad was executed, while Rafiqdust received a
life-sentence. Without the participation of Rafiqdust, the
12 August "Neshat" asked, would the theft of so much money
have been possible, and if so, why the discrepancy in
sentences?
Mohseni-Ejei was the judge in the corruption trial of
former Tehran Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi. How is it,
Akbar Ganji asks in the 13 December "Asr-i Azadegan," that
Karbaschi was imprisoned for financial improprieties, while
the clerics associated with the case went unpunished? When
the Fatemieh Foundation (Center for Supervising Tehran
Mosques), which is run by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-
Kani, wanted to build a shopping arcade in Tehran, the
original cost was 24 billion rials. But Mahdavi-Kani
pressured Karbaschi into forgiving 21 billion rials of the
purchase price, and another 3 billion rials is unaccounted
for.
Mohseni-Ejei was the Revolutionary Court's
representative in the Ministry of Intelligence and
Security. At that time, he lived in a building owned by
Akbar Khoshkush, an MOIS employee now being held in
connection with the killings of political dissidents.
During Mohseni-Ejei's watch as representative to the MOIS,
Khoshkush was implicated in a scandal involving the illegal
import and sale of mobile telephones. During the hearings
relating to that case, it was revealed that Khoshkush used
money from the mobile phone deal to construct the building,
yet Khoshkush was not prosecuted. This also raises the
question of how an MOIS official was allowed to participate
in such financial transactions.
Incidentally, Mohseni-Ejei's neighbors in the building
were MOIS officials Said Emami and Mustafa Kazemi, two
other suspects in the murders of dissidents.
It is not just the example of Mohseni-Ejei that
demonstrates the reluctance of high-level officials to risk
their financial interests. Iran's Guardians Council
recently rejected several articles of the Third Development
Plan proposed by President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's
government. The rejected articles include those that
proposed eliminating monopolies in banking,
telecommunications, and the aviation industry. The
Guardians Council said the articles were rejected because
they contradicted Article 44 of the constitution, according
to the 13 December "Hamshahri." Article 44 states that
these and several other industries, including foreign
trade, "will be publicly owned and administered by the
state."
The rejection of these aspects of the bill may have
less to do with the constitution than with the personal
financial interests of senior figures in the Iranian
government and those close to them. Speaking at a
roundtable in December 1998, economic consultant Ali Mazrui
suggested that such people are using their positions to
pursue economic windfalls, rather than profits for their
firms. Another economic consultant, Said Leylaz, recalled a
conversation with an Iran Air official who wanted to
privatize some parts of the national airline but could not
do so because he feared a factional backlash.
Iran's current economy, because of Article 44, favors
the state sector heavily. The concessions that go to such
firms give them a distinct advantage over the private
sector. Most conservative political figures have direct
financial relationships with the para-statal foundations,
so they will not favor increased competition and a leveling
of the playing field. Furthermore, the bazaaris who support
conservatives also do not favor increased competition.
The vested interests of high-ranking officials,
therefore, shows that they have a strong interest in
maintaining the economic status quo. And with individuals
like Mohseni-Ejei serving in the judicial apparatus, it
seems that justice will not threaten them. (Bill Samii)


NURI APPEAL FACES PROBLEMS
Hojatoleslam Mohsen Rahami, Abdullah Nuri's lawyer,
said on 8 December that his client will appeal his
conviction. It was hoped that this would allow Nuri to
register for and compete in the February parliamentary
election. Events since then, plus the actual rules of the
Special Court for the Clergy, which convicted Nuri, make a
successful appeal, as well as Nuri's standing in the
election, seem very unlikely.
Initially, Nuri said he would not appeal because he
did not accept the Special Court's legitimacy. Special
Court chief Hojatoleslam Gholamhussein Mohseni-Ejei
explained, according to the 6 December "Sobh-i Imruz:"
"When the verdict was announced, Mr. Nuri was present along
with his lawyer and he declared that he had no objections
to the verdict. Therefore, he cannot change his mind." This
seemed to rule out an appeal. But state broadcasting quoted
Mohseni-Ejei as saying on 6 December that Nuri had until 17
December to appeal.
Rahami said on 11 December that he will seek the
immediate release of Nuri pending the appeal, leading
observers to say that the appeal was aimed at getting
Nuri's name on the ballot for the February 18 parliamentary
polls. A temporary release was rejected, however.
The grounds for appealing Special Court verdicts are
unclear. Verdicts are binding unless the judge admits
making a mistake, the prosecutor contradicts the verdict,
or the presiding judge is declared incompetent. In such
cases, the case can be re-tried by a different judge. This
could lead to the case being heard multiple times until an
unchallenged verdict is reached. According to a 1997
Amnesty International report: "there appears to be an
extremely limited scope for review of verdicts by this
court, and the defendant appears to have no right to appeal
to a higher tribunal for a review of his or her conviction
and sentence."
Even if the appeal is successful, the Guardians
Council can disallow Nuri's candidacy. An amendment to the
electoral law, approved in August, gives the Guardians
Council the supervisory task in every stage of the
parliamentary elections, including determination of
candidates' qualifications. Qualification for candidacy
requires, according to the amended election law, practical
commitment to Islam and the Islamic system, and loyalty to
the constitution and rule by the Supreme Jurisconsult. Nuri
was sentenced to five years in prison after being tried on
charges of, among other things, reporting lies and waging
propaganda against the system, insulting Father of the
Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his views,
publishing reports contrary to religious principles, and
insulting religious sanctities. (Bill Samii)


RAFSANJANI REGISTERS TO RUN
Hojatoleslam Abdullah Nuri was touted as the likely
speaker of the next parliament. With his unavailability for
the election, and with reports that the current speaker,
Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri, will not stand, it now
seems that the way is clear for Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar
Hashemi-Rafsanjani. But Hashemi-Rafsanjani is not
acceptable to all factions, particularly reformists.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who was speaker before becoming
president in 1989, registered for next year's parliamentary
election on 15 December. He said the objective of his
candidacy is to "bring about national solidarity in the
parliament and help promote government programs," IRNA
reported. Earlier reports about Hashemi-Rafsanjani's
candidacy were welcomed by Habibollah Asgaroladi-Mosalman,
secretary-general of the hardline Islamic Coalition
Association, who described Hashemi-Rafsanjani as an "ultra-
factional" figure, according to IRNA on 11 December.
Others hardliners, such as Masud Dehnamaki, editor of
the weekly "Jebheh," and parliamentarian Ali Movahedi-
Savoji ("Sobh-i Imruz," 8 November; "Asr-i Azadegan," 9
November) also encouraged Hashemi-Rafsanjani's candidacy..
Enthusiasm about Hashemi-Rafsanjani is not whole-
hearted, particularly in the 2nd Khordad movement, a
coalition of pro-Khatami groups. According to an observer
at the 12 December speech by President Mohammad Khatami,
students were chanting "Political Development Cannot be
With Hashemi!" Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution
Organisation spokesman Mohsen Armin said, according to the
11 December "Manateq-i Azad," "Among Hashemi-Rafsanjani's
serious rivals is [Hojatoleslam Mohammad Asqar] Musavi-
Khoeniha, and I believe that he has a good chance of
becoming the speaker of the sixth parliament if he takes
part in the elections." The Special Court for the Clergy,
however, found Musavi-Khoeniha guilty of spreading
fabrications, disturbing public opinion, and publishing
classified documents in August, although his imprisonment
and flogging were suspended.
Others who were unenthusiastic about Hashemi-
Rafsanjani's candidacy were Abbas Abdi of the Islamic Iran
Participation Party ("Asr-i Azadegan," 17 November),
parliamentarian Alireza Mahjoub of the Islamic Labor Party
("Entekhab," 11 November), and former Deputy Minister of
Islamic Culture and Guidance Ahmad Burqani, who was known
as a defender of press freedom ("Sobh-i Imruz," 11
November).
In November the different factions were putting
forward their lists of (often shared) candidates, and the
two main clerical political groups had held joint meetings
to demonstrate their "unity." The discussion on Hashemi-
Rafsanjani, however, indicates a factional split that
threatens a decisive result in the February elections. And
the Guardians Council's history of disallowing the
candidacy of those who are insufficiently hardline,
combined with recent reports about the factionalized nature
of election supervisory bodies in the provinces, reinforces
such expectations. (Bill Samii)


PROBLEMS WITH MUNICIPAL COUNCILS
A number of people elected to the municipal councils
in Tehran and other cities in February have resigned so
they can be eligible for the February 2000 parliamentary
elections. But conflicts over the weak legislation which
defines the councils' actual powers may result in more
resignations.
The need for councils is specified in the
constitution, but their actual duties and powers are not
clearly defined. In Tehran, this has led to the resignation
of Abbas Duzduzani, who succeeded Hojatoleslam Abdullah
Nuri as head of the Tehran council. A gentleman named
Vaezi, reputedly a hardliner, is in charge of the municipal
Culture and Arts Organization. Duzduzani, however, prefers
Mehdi Argani for the position. The Tehran council believes
it has the power to select the Culture and Arts
Organization's chief.
What this boils down to is control of "Hamshahri" the
high-circulation daily affiliated with Tehran municipality.
This publication will be a useful tool for publicizing
reformist candidates' parliamentary campaigns. Tehran Mayor
Morteza Alviri said, according to the 8 December "Iran
Vij," that Vaezi's appointment is illegal. Council member
Said Hajjarian added that other members of the Tehran
municipal council may resign if Vaezi stays.
There also are disagreements over the time council-
members are expected to spend at their jobs. Hajjarian
pointed out that the work is unpaid, but for many council-
members it takes up all their time.
In other cities, the issue of councils' authority also
is causing problems. Reza Loqmanian, head of the Hamedan
municipal council, said that the governors-general and the
mayors no longer have authority in certain daily municipal
affairs, but their responsibilities and authority have not
been turned over to the councils yet. He added, IRNA
reported on 8 November, that although the public had great
expectations, the councils have "too little authority to
proceed with their tasks."
There is no formal way for the public to communicate
its "great expectations" to its elected representatives,
the Shiraz daily "Nim-Negah" pointed out in August, and
conversely, the council members have difficulty in
explaining "the limits of their authority." The daily
predicted that the council will be confronted with demands
for help in settling "family and tribal feuds, "employment
disputes," and "name changes."
Problems stemming from the lack of council-related
legislation were foreseen (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1
March 1999). The national government is aware of this, too.
During a visit to Isfahan in August, Interior Minister
Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said "revision of the present laws
of the Islamic city/village councils are among priorities
of the Interior Ministry," according to IRNA. He "stressed
that more time is needed to find out the deficiencies and
shortcomings of the councils' law," and he expressed the
hope that the new parliament will draft the relevant
legislation. (Bill Samii)


NO WAY OUT?
Discussing a parliamentary motion granting amnesty to
exiled Iranians, Mahmud Kalantari, director general of the
Passport Department, said returnees would be banned from
leaving the country, "Iran News" reported on 13 December.
The daily suggested that Kalantari's idea contradicts the
whole concept of an amnesty. The first reading of the bill
was passed on 15 December, and it now will be examined more
closely by the parliament. (Bill Samii)


RUSSIAN-IRANIAN BORDER?
Konstantin Totsky, Director of Russia's Federal Border
Guard Service, was in Tehran from 19-22 November, at which
time he met with officials from Iran's Interior Ministry.
Totsky and Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari
signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation against
drug trafficking and illegal immigration. "Russia is going
to assist the Iranians in technical maintenance of the
border between the two countries," official RIA Novosti
news agency reported on 18 November. The only problem is
that Russia and Iran do not share a common border. (Bill
Samii)

*************************************************
Copyright (c) 1999. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

The RFE/RL Iran Report is a weekly prepared by A. William
Samii on the basis of materials from RFE/RL broadcast
services, RFE/RL Newsline, and other news services. Direct
comments to A. William Samii in Prague at samiia@rferl.org

Technical queries should be emailed to
listmanager@list.rferl.org

For information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul
Goble in Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at goblep@rferl.org
Back issues are available on the RFE/RL Web site at:
http://www.rferl.org/iran-report

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
Send an email to iranreport-request@list.rferl.org with the
word subscribe as the subject of the message.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE
Send an email to iranreport-request@list.rferl.org with the
word unsubscribe as the subject of the message

NEWS BROADCASTS ONLINE
Listen to news about Iran daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour LIVE
Broadcast Studio on the RFE/RL Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/bd/ir/index.html

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 19 Dec 1999 to 23 Dec 1999 - Special issue