Payame Azadi News of Iran
8 May 2000
New Press law
Student Protest
Plan to invalidate the election
Spy for Israel?

Closure of 16 pro-reform Newspapers:

In the last two weeks, the Islamic judiciary closed down all the reformist publication which had recently flourished in Iran, were increasingly popular, and had played a major role in the defeat of hard-liners in recent parliamentary elections. The last reformist newspapers to be banned were Mosharekat and Sobh-e-Emruze. Moshartekat was the Organ of the leading reformist party in Iran, headed by the brother of the reformist president, Khatami. This party has won the majority of the seats in the newly elected parliament, to be convened towards the end of May. Sobh-e-Emruze was directed by a leading reformist, saeed Hajjarian, who was shot in the face on March 12 by two men who fled on the type of high- powered motorcycle reserved for members of Iran's security forces.

Student Protest Against Media Crackdown:

Thousands of Iranian students boycotted classes and demonstrated against the newspapers closure. The students of Khajeh Nassir Toussi University burst out of the college buildings shouting in praise of freedom. They left the campus and distributed leaflets, saying they had quit classes to protest the coup against the reformist press. About 200 students at Shahid Beheshti University battled the police after campus protest. The students hurled stones at college buildings and burned tires. The police broke up the riot with the help of vigilante extremists. The pro-Khatami student Solidarity Bureau issued a statement last week calling for an end to the demonstration on several campuses, saying it feared that any protest could be infiltrated by hard-line " Saboteurs". This reformist student union urged students to put their hopes in the new Parliament. However, the increasingly frustrated students have reminded Mr Khatami that he was elected in 1997 in a protest vote against the conservatives. " How long do we keep silent?" asked one student speaker at rally in Tehran University. " Whatever the hard-liners do, our response is silence. Why should we be silent at the funerals of our beloved newspapers?"


The Council of Guardians is prone to "put on ice" the approval of election results for Tehran until after the second round of the elections in order to stop reformists who swept all but one of the Tehran 30 seats but one to be present at the beginning of the next Majles, according to informed sources.

"Once the run off elections is over, the leader-dominated Council would proceed to invalidate the results for the capital, demanding that new by-elections to be held for the capital, they reported.

Quoting some analysts, the pro-Government English language "Iran News" that is published by the official news agency IRNA said after the end of the second round, the leader-controlled Council would proceed to "invalidate" the results for the capital and decide for by-elections.

The controversy took place as a result of the Guardian's decision to recount for the fourth or fifth times the results for Tehran, where the conservatives, led by former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were dealt a humiliating blow.

Entering the race with certainty that he would become the lead vote catcher, Mr. Rafsanjani did not received enough vote to enter the Majles and in order to save him face, the Council of Guardians decided on rigging the polls in his favour.

"In this light, it can therefore be said that if this approach is applied, it could be advantageous to the conservatives in many ways, as the next Majles would convene in the absence of Tehran MPs, many of them high profile political figures, thus making the new parliament an impotent one posing no serious challenge to the conservative deputies", the paper added.

The scenario, according to "Iran News", has other advantages as well since when it comes to the election of the Majles presiding board, the absence of Tehran deputies would help the conservatives to share the control the presidency of the House in the one hand and prevent any political bickering, infighting and accidents in the enfeebled Majles on the other.

In fact, analysts believe that the best part of this contingency plan comes when the candidates of Tehran would have to re-register for the bye elections, meaning once again to become subject to vetting and screening by the same Council.

''Given this new parameter, the composition of the new Majlis would be in all probability, completely different from how it stands now,'' the paper pointed out.

Sources close to the reformist camp said they now realise why the Guardians refused "from the outset" that the vote counting be done by electronic system, reducing greatly risks and possibilities of frauds and manipulation, deciding instead of the new antique, fraud-prone, open to all kind of rigging, counting system.

"Even with this old system, counting the votes should not take such a long time, unless one is after a miracle by counting and recounting the votes and transporting ballot boxes from one place to another", one analyst observed, advising the Guardians that it is faster to count only the votes cast for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"In fact, it is an open secret that ever since the humiliation suffered by the former president in the Majles elections, the Guardians, on solicitation from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, are doing what they can to secure Mr. Rafsanjani a seat in the next reformist-controlled House", a former Minister said.


SHIRAZ (Iran) 3rd May. In a dramatic turn of events, two more Iranian Jews suspected to have spied for Israel and the United States admitted Wednesday almost freely to have collaborated with Israeli secret services, explaining to foreign reporters they were motivated primarily by religion and the promised land.

But an attorney for the defendants, Mr. Esma'il Naseri said even though the suspects have admitted to the charges in the closed-doors Islamic revolution Court, yet what they have said does not make them spy and their charges espionage.

He also criticised the television interview of Mr Hamid "Dany" Teflin, the prime suspect, saying this was against the laws.

"It is true that the suspects confessed to being spies and to going to Israel and to receiving money, but did the information they gave the Israelis consist of secrets? We believe not, because the judge is not showing any documentation or proof that secret material was handed over. If the court believes otherwise, it should show us the evidence," Mr. Naseri told journalists outside the court.

Hojjatoleslam Hosseinali Amiri, the Head of Fars province Justice Department said at a news briefing after the hearing that details about the activities of the espionage ring's would be available at a latter time.

But talking briefly to reporters in Shiraz, Mr. Teflin said he had accepted to speak to the State-run Television, reiterating no pressure had been applied on him to do that interview.

Mr. Teflin as well as two other defendants, Mr. Shahrokh Paknahad, a Hebrew teacher and Ramin Ne'matizadeh, also a teacher, said they had provided Israel with information on political and economical situation of Iran.

Asked why he had risked his life for what officials say was a $500 per month stipend from Israeli intelligence, he said: "There was financial need (but)...there were religious issues as well, because of the promised land, because over there they told me the promised land, Israel, was my real country." Mr. Paknahad told reporters that Israel had betrayed them by promising to come to their aide if things go wrong.

"We were told by Israeli intelligence that if any of us under any circumstances were arrested, we must deny everything and they would help to get us out by bringing to bear international pressure. "What I can say on behalf of myself and the others, is that we are unhappy and sad and repentant," he added.

According to Mr. Naseri, defendants admissions may be due to fatigue resulting from the long months they spent in prison. Eyewitness present at the trial site in Shiraz told IPS that the public confessions by the three main suspects appear to give credit to the Iranian version of the case that the suspects had spied for Israel.

"Now it remains to define what one understands by espionage in a country where speaking to any foreigner, including a journalist, could be interpreted by the paranoid Islamic regime as spying", one Iranian observer pointed out. Under Iranian law, the crime of espionage carries penalties ranging from six months in prison to death.