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Entries in Bahman Ahmadi Amoui (5)


The Latest from Iran (23 August): Political Cease-fire?

1830 GMT: Shh, Don't Mention the Sanctions. In an interview with former President Abulhassan Banisadr, Deutsche Welle refers to two directives from Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. One banning newspapers from printing pictures and news of opposition figures has already been mentioned (see 0919 GMT).

The other is new to us: Iranian media have apparently been told to make no mention of the effects of sanctions.

NEW Iran Document: Interview with Detained Filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad
NEW Iran Special: Have Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani Kissed and Made Up?
Iran: Today’s Shiny Object for Media? Why, It’s an Ambassador-of-Death Drone Bomber!
The Latest from Iran (22 August): Ahmadinejad Aide Mortazavi Suspended?

1800 GMT: The President's Men. Fars News is now carrying the story of the suspension of three officials over the Kahrizak Prison abuses, but does not name any of them, including Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi.

1745 GMT: MediaWatch (cont.). Thomas Erdbrink, writing in The Washington Post, is the first "Western" reporter to name Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi as one of the three officials suspended for alleged connections with post-election Kahrizak Prison abuses. Erdbrink quotes human rights lawyer Saleh Nikbakht, "Mortazavi is among them, and now that he no longer has judicial immunity, he could face trial."

And The Financial Times is clearly on a roll with its coverage of the in-fighting. Having noted the Supreme Leader's intervention on Wednesday (see 1735 GMT), the newspaper also features Najmeh Bozorgmehr's article "Shia Schism Deepens Ahmadi-Nejad's Woes": "The infighting between Iran’s fundamentalists has deepened the gulf between supporters and opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad."

1735 GMT: MediaWatch on The President's Men. Credit to Reuters for picking up on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appointment of his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, as one of his four "special representatives" for foreign policy --- Rahim-Mashai's responsibility will be the Near East --- and for putting that in the context of political battles within the establishment.

Not so sure, however, that Reuters' snap conclusion is on the mark: "[This suggests] for now that for now [Ahmadinejad] may have the upper hand over the critics." (Someone might want to consult Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani.)

The Financial Times, belatedly but interestingly, notes the Supreme Leader's intervention last Wednesday and frames it as "Ayatollah Warns Bickering Politicians". The reporter, Monavar Khalaj, picks out this extract from Ayatollah Khamenei's statements, “I gave a serious warning to the officials not to make their differences public....Unity and solidarity among the country’s officials is a religious duty and the intentional rejection [of unity] is, especially in the upper echelon, against religious teachings.”

1720 GMT: Baby Basij. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, drawing from Aftab News, reports that female commander of the Basij militia, Zohreh Abbasi, has said that her unit has introduced a special program that allows baby girls to be registered as members of the force and receive training.

Abbasi said that, in the past six years, 23 baby girls had been trained as Basij members through "Koranic, cultural, educational, and military" classes.

"Basij mothers register their baby girls 40 days after they were born at the Hossein Haj Mousaee unit by presenting documents and IDs," Abbasi said. She declared that two babies have recently been born and  work is under way to prepare a dossiers for the new arrivals to enrol them in the special program.

1715 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detainees at Rajai Shahr Prison written to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, asking him to support human rights and labour activism.

1450 GMT: Energy Squeeze. Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, the company behind the amibitious Asia to Europe "gas bridge", will supply Europe through links to Turkey’s borders with Georgia and Iraq, rejecting a connection to the Turkish-Iranian border. Nabucco said the shareholders' decision was “due to the current political situation".

1335 GMT: MediaWatch (President's Man Edition). Almost 24 hours after the suspension of Ahmadinejad aide and former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi from his post because of alleged links to the Kahrizak Prison abuses, non-Iranian media --- like their counterparts in Tehran --- are not providing a name. The BBC, following the lead of the Associated Press, say only that "Iran has suspended three judicial officers".

1315 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English reports that Amnesty International and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands have expressed concern over the possibility of a death sentence for Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch citizen arrested in Iran after the Ashura protests of 27 December.

1245 GMT: Tough Talk Today. Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the Revolutionary Guard's Navy Commander, says Iran's missile-launching vessels are the best in the world for speed and power. “American warships currently have a maximum speed of 31 knots while Iranian vessels can travel twice as fast on average,” Fadavi said at a ceremony to open production lines for domestically-built Zolfaghar and Seraj craft.

1100 GMT: The Nuclear Front. Yesterday we noted, from a paragraph in a New York Times article on the Bushehr nuclear plant, the significant announcement that "Russia would provide Iran with iodine and molybdenum, nuclear isotopes used in medicine" and asked, "Will Iran withdraw its demand that it be allowed to enrich uranium to 20%, at least while discussions proceed on a long-term deal over the nuclear programme? And is Washington up-to-speed and supportive of the Russian move?"

An EA source offers an answer, noting this statement from the head of Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, Ali Akbar Salehi:
We will go as far as our needs are met. So we have no intention to proceed forever for enriching [uranium] to 20%, although it is our right according to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] statute to enrich uranium to any percentage that is needed for peaceful uses in nuclear energy. But this does not mean that we shall do so. We only embarked on 20% because of the conditions that were imposed on us. I reiterate that we will go as far as our needs are met.

Our source comments, "Seems to me that Iran is gearing up to offer this as a bargaining chip."

0919 GMT: Blackout in the Newspapers. Daneshjoo News publishes a document which it claims is a Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance order barring the names and pictures of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami from newspapers.

0918 GMT: Silence in the Theatre. Voice of America offers an overview of new restrictions by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on Iran's theatre.

0915 GMT: We have published a separate feature: journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, just before returning to prison last week, posted his comments in an interview for his website.

0739 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Jila Bani Yaghoub, the wife of journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, one of 17 detainees who recently went on hunger strike in Evin Prison, has offered an update on her blog.

Bani Yaghoub says the hunger strikers, who ended their fast last week, are "weakened" but in excellent spirits. She claims that, when they were finally returned to the general ward --- Amoui was one of the last three prisoners to be let out of solitary confinement --- they knew already about the international "echo" of their protest.

0735 GMT: Cleric Stands Tough. Following yet another attempt by a crowd to intimidate him by gathering outside the Shiraz mosque where he presides, Grand Ayatollah Dastgheib has warned "those who meet clandestinely to attack Qoba Mosque again". He said that he is interpreting the Qu'ran in mosque, and all that his followers want is justice and implementation the Constitution.

0725 GMT: The Supreme Leader and the Students. More on Ayatollah Khamenei's three-hour meeting with student represenatives on Sunday....

The Supreme Leader declared, "I am united with all those who follow principles, but others are outside" the Iranian system. He added, "We must not eliminate people with weak religious belief on pretext of purifying society."

Khamenei admitted --- interestingly, in light of yesterday's news about the suspension of three officials --- that procedure in the Kahrizak abuse case had been slow.

0650 GMT: An Ahmadinejad-Ali Larijani Deal? Really?

Already EA correspondents are moving beyond the public face of a reconciliation between the President and the Speaker of Parliament --- considered in our special analysis this morning --- and the notion of a resolution between the Majlis and the Government is far from clear-cut.

First, the Ahmadinejad meeting with Parliament that preceded the press conference with Larijani....

The President, attending with Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian (who is under some pressure from the Majlis) and Minister of Economy Shamsoddin Hosseini, welcomed the monthly discussions. Then the questions began on topics which have been long-standing and growing sources of dispute: privatisation, proper implementation of laws, cultural problems (hijab), and the possible impeachment of Khalilian.

That in itself was a bit of a climb-down for Ahmadinejad, who had balked at given an account of his meetings, but it cut off an initiative by some MPs for formal questioning of the President. This, as well as the Supreme Leader's intervention on Wednesday, lay behind the good-news statements that followed the meeting: Ali Larijani said the Majlis has made the first step for unity of powers, while Ahmadinejad declared, "If you make good laws, the Government will implement them."

Whether that reconcililation holds is another issue. In the meeting, Ahmadinejad faced challenges, such as Mohammad Ebrahim Nekounam insisting on the Government's "duty" to implement Majlis legislation and Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel insisting that the President's enforcement of the "hijab and chastity project" is absolutely necessary. (As always, make what you will of the fact that this description is appearing in Khabar Online, linked to Ali Larijani.)

And there are signals of persistence, if not defiance, from each side. The President has given his Chief of Staff --- Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai --- a prime target for the criticisms of conservative MPs --- yet another post, appointing him as special representative for the Near East. (There have also been appointments for Asia, the Caspian Sea area, and Afghanistan.)

From the Parliamentary side, Mohammad Karami-Rad said that a meeting with Minister of Agriculture Khalilian, postponed because of Wednesday's discussions with the Supreme Leader, will take place and the Majlis will proceed with moves for impeachment.

0640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English publishes a letter from Sepideh Pooraghaiee, a friend and colleague of Shiva Nazar Ahari, about the deatined human rights activist and journalist:
Shiva Nazar Ahari has acted very distinguishably throughout the years. She never allowed intimidations and threats to turn into an impenetrable dam against her sacred efforts. Along with her bravery and clarity, she also was calm, patient and hopeful. She never expected to be praised. She never compromised with the resolution of a problem, however small, for a human being.

Nazar Ahari has been imprisoned since July 2009 and reportedly faces a charge of "mohareb" (war against God), which carried the death penalty.

0630 GMT: A Kurdish Political Perspective. Rooz Online carries an interview with the head of the Komeleh Party, Abdollah Mohtadi. The opening exchange:
Rooz: The Komeleh Party and the Green Movement! Is this not strange?

Abdollah Mohtadi: No, I do not believe it to be strange. I view the green movement to be a rightful and democratic movement, and we support any such movement. Even though this movement has not cut its nuptial cord from people who I think are official reformers and is still connected to them, I do not view the green movement to be the simple extension and continuation of what has been known as the reformist path in Iran. On the contrary, I believe that impasse of that model of reforms and ineffectiveness of its methods in its confrontation of dictatorship and the inability of reforms to create change at the top, has caused the green movement to take shape from the bottom through the public to attain its demands.

0615 GMT: We begin today with a special analysis: has the Supreme Leader mediated a political compromise between President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani? And is the Ahmadinejad-Larijani profession of co-operation more than a temporary, public measure?


Political Prisoner Watch

This week we have been noting the case of Abed Tavancheh, the student activist sentenced to one year in prison. To put further pressure on him, Iranian authorities have threatened to seize his family's home.

Now, according to Tavancheh's Facebook page --- as relayed to EA by a reader --- a deal has been proposed. The activist has been told that he should be at home on Wednesday, so agents accompanied by the relative who posted the house as bail can raid it and detain him. This way the relative has made a sign of co-operation and the house will not be confiscated.

Academic Corner

Students at Zanjan University staged a sit-in protest on Sunday to protest the firing of Professor Yousef Sobouti.

The Latest from Iran (20 August): What is Going On Over Nuclear Talks?

2000 GMT: Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and Talks with the US. Really, what is going on???

The English translation of the Ahmadinejad interview with the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun (see 1145 and 1445 GMT) --- in which the President said, "We are ready for the talks...about Iran's proposed package from around the end of August or the beginning of September" --- makes clears that the discussion took place on Thursday. (hat tip to EA readers for their assistance on this important point)

In other words, Ahmadinejad gave the statement welcoming discussions and offering the prospect of a suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment --- "If the fuel exchange is accomplished and we are assured that our 20 percent fuel [uranium] will be guaranteed, the situation will change" --- a day after the Supreme Leader had thundered:
If one side intends to act like a superpower, threatening the other side, putting it under pressure, and imposing sanctions on it — and showing an iron hand — and at the same time offering talks, this cannot be called talks. We will not hold such talks with anybody.

So is this a case of Khamenei the "bad cop" and Ahmadinejad the "good cop" as Tehran manoeuvres for position ahead of any discussions? Indeed, do the different statements point to private haggling --- directly or indirectly --- with Washington to set up some basis for public talks?

Or could it be that the Supreme Leader and the President are not exactly in agreement on the way forward?

NEW Iran Document & Analysis: Supreme Leader’s Speech on US-Iran Relations & Internal Situation (18 August)
NEW Iran: Obama Administration Dampens Down War Chatter (Mazzetti/Sanger)
Rewriting Iran’s History: The 1953 Coup, the CIA, the Clerics, and “Democracy” (Emery)
Iran Cartoon of the Day: 1953 Speaks to 2010
The Latest from Iran (19 August): Freedom & Detention

1520 GMT: Shutdown. Rah-e-Sabz reports that the blog of former Vice President Massoumeh Ebtekar has been filtered.

1510 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human rights activist Laleh Hassanpour, currently free from detention on bail, has been arraigned on new charges.

1505 GMT: Iran MediaWatch. Reporters Without Borders has condemned this week's closure of three newspapers, including the economic publication Asia and the imposition of a six-year sentence on Badrolsadat Mofidi, the secretary-general of the Association of Iranian Journalists.

RWB notes that more than 20 newspapers have been banned since the June 2009 election.

1455 GMT: A Friday Prayer Admission. Wow, it looks like Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi gave away a bit of nervousness today, at least in the account from Fars News:
Addressing a large and fervent congregation of people on Tehran University campus, Hojjatoleslam Sediqi called on Iranian officials and policy makers to close their ranks and get united.

Hojjatoleslam Sediqi further noted that lack of solidarity among special social strata is a problem which should be removed.

This line follows the one set by the Supreme Leader's speech on Wednesday (see analysis in separate entry), and it is effectively an open admissions of tensions within the Iranian Government.

1445 GMT: Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, & Nuke Talks. Oh, dear, some "Western" media are publishing before reflecting on President Ahmadinejad's supposed declaration to a Japanese newspaper (see 1145 GMT), headlined "Iran Says Might Halt High-Level Uranium Enrichment": both Reuters and Agence France Presse are promoting the story, and it is being pushed by outlets like the National Iranian American Council.

As we noted earlier, timing is critical here: if the interview took place before Wednesday, it has been superseded by the Supreme Leader's line of "Sanctions = No Talks". And no Iranian state media outlet is running the report; to the contrary, the fervent line of Press TV is that Iran will continue uranium enrichment in defiance of US objections.

1440 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Deutsche Welle is quoting Turkish newspapers that a delegation from the US State Department and Treasury have warned Ankara about trade with Iran.

1150 GMT: Tough Talk Today. Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has said during today's Friday Prayers that Tehran has test-fired a new surface-to-surface missile, Qiam 1, "with new technical specifications and exceptional tactical powers". Footage was shown on state television, although it is unclear when the test took place.

On another front, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Moscow does not plan to supply S-300 missiles to Iran: “We are not supplying anything. There is no decision on supplies.”

The S-300 deal has been held up for months amidst Western pressure on Russia to refrain from delivery of the missiles.

1145 GMT: Nuke Talks Confusion. Less than two days after the Supreme Leader ruled out an immediate resumption of discussions on Iran's uranium enrichment, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun has quoted President Ahmadinejad, ''Iran is ready to resume [talks] in late August or in early September'' with the "5+1" powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China, Germany). Ahmadinejad supposedly added, "We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 per cent if fuel supply is ensured."

Now, was the interview with Ahmadinejad conducted before Wednesday, which indicates that Ayatollah Khamenei vetoed the President's wish for resumed talks, or did it occur after Wednesday, which indicates that Ahmadinejad is still not on the same wavelength as the Supreme Leader?

Meanwhile, Islamic Republic News Agency claims that the director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said --- citing the Supreme Leader's comments --- that the country will continue enrichment of uranium for nuclear plants despite Western objections.

1140 GMT: Oil Squeeze? US National Public Radio reports on the supply of oil from Iraq's Kurdistan into Iran, which continues despite sanctions.

0930 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Radio Zamaneh has more on Mehdi Karroubi's on-line discussion with readers this week, including the take-away quote: “People must decide whether they want a religious or non-religious government and they must be allowed to choose their own form of government....The republic aspect of the government must take precedence [over the religious aspect] and people’s will must be accepted.”

0925 GMT: On-Line. Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News website, which was down at the start of today, can again be accessed.

0801 GMT: Rumour of the Week. Earlier this week we noted chatter on social media about a "Basij attack on Mohsen Rezaei", former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, candidate in the 2009 Presidential election, and Secretary of the Expediency Council.

EA readers point us to the following from Rah-e-Sabz:
Media and eyewitnesses report that on the first night of the month of Ramadan (11 August) Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of the Assembly for the Discernment of Expedience and a critic of the government, was accosted by several people when he was about to participate in prayers for one of the nation's famous panegyrists (formal speaker).

Aftab News reports as Rezaei was entering the courtyard of Tehran's Ark Mosque to take part in panegyrics for Hajj Mansour Arzi, two steps inside the courtyard he was stopped along with his guards by Hoseyn Allah-Karam (a leader of the Ansar-e Hezbollah and of the plainclothes agents) and forced to sit on the ground.

The Jahan News site in a report, quoting one of those close to Mohsen Rezaei, wrote that Mohsen Rezaei was accosted by several people when he was about to attend a panegyrics session for Hajj Mansour Arzi.

Another reader sends us the link to the Jahan story. The claim is that the "attack" may have prompted by the criticism of Ahmadinejad chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

0800 GMT: We have posted an English translation of the full text of the Supreme Leader's speech on Wednesday and a snap analysis: there were important words not only on US-Iran relations but also on Iran's internal situation.

0630 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Dastgheib has urged that Iranians not be set against each other by dividing them into supporters and opponents of velayat-e-faqih (ultimate clerical authority). He said that Iranian authorities had brought people's disillusionment with religion and isolated society from righteous clerics.

0625 GMT: The Hunger Strike. The last of 17 political prisoners who started a hunger strike at Evin Prison have now been removed from solitary confinement. Advar News reported that Abdollah Momeni, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, and Keyvan Samimi were transferred to the general section of Evin on Tuesday night.

0619 GMT: Academic Corner. Citing health problems, Dr. Saeed Soharpour, the Chancellor of Sharif University, has resigned.

Soharpour will be replaced by Dr. Reza Roosta Azad, the Vice Chancellor of Research and a Professor of Chemical Engineering. Roosta Azad is a senior member of the central council of the Isargaran Society, which was co-founded by President Ahmadinejad.

In an interview on Sunday with Fars News, Dr. Roosta Azad supported the ban on Mohammad Reza Shajarian's song of the famous prayer "Rabbana" by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: "His actions during the recent sedition has upset people. Hence Seda-o-Sima [IRIB] is right to ban him on the national broadcasting network."

Two years ago, Sharif University was highlighted by Newsweek as "one of the world's best undergraduate colleges".

0615 GMT: We have posted a separate feature pointing to an Obama Administration effort, via The New York Times, to dampen down talk of an Israeli airstrike on Iran.

0545 GMT: We awake this morning to find that Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News appears to have been shut down by Iranian authorities. The message, "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access /index.php on this server," greets anyone who tries to access the homepage.

The Latest from Iran (18 August): A Letter and A Call for Bombing

2055 GMT: Sports Section. Football star Ali Karimi, who was released by his club Steel Azin this week, apparently for drinking water during training and thus breaking the daylight fast of Ramadan, was in the stadium tonight for Steel Azin's match with Kerman Copper. He was applauded by the crowd.

2035 GMT: Speech Round-Up (Opposition Edition). Rah-e-Sabz has more on Mir Hossein Mousavi's latest statement that 30 years of the Islamic Republic are being challenged to "save the cobwebs of tyrants". And the website summarises Mehdi Karroubi's on-line chat with readers: he will participate in a Qods Day rally in September, for which planning is under way. He said that the current Government is not religious nor a republic, and the Iranian people will have decide about a a religious or secular government in the future.

The Facebook page supporting Mousavi has an English translation of his statement.

NEW Iran Document: Nourizad’s Last Letter to Supreme Leader “The 10 Grievances”
NEW Iran Feature: Sanctions, Iranians, and YouTube’s “Life in a Day” (Esfandiary)
UPDATED Iran Special: Have Fars (& Revolutionary Guard) Faked a Reformist “Confession” on Election?
Iran Video: “His Excellency” Ahmadinejad Interviewed by George Galloway (15 August)
UPDATED Iran Analysis: What Has Green Movement Achieved? (Sahimi)
The Latest from Iran (17 August): The Green Movement, Ahmadinejad, and a “Confession”

2030 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Revolutionary Court has confiscated the house belonging to the parents of student activist Abed Tavanche.

2025 GMT: Speech Round-Up (Khamenei Edition). The Supreme Leader's focus --- despite all the tensions within the Iranian system, including the challenges to the President --- was beyond Tehran today. It was all about the US and Iran's nuclear programme: "What they say, our president and others are saying, that we will negotiate -- yes we will, but not with America because America is not negotiating honestly and like a normal negotiator. Put away the threats and put away the sanctions."

So the line is drawn: unless Washington pulls back both unilateral and United Nations sanctions (or gives private assurances to Tehran that they will be withdrawn if progress is made on an uranium enrichment deal), there will be no post-Ramadan negotiations: "On one hand they threaten us and impose sanctions and show an iron hand, and on the other hand they want us at the negotiating table. We do not consider this as negotiations. Experience has shown that when they cannot answer logic, they bully... we will not budge under pressures and we will respond to these pressures in our own way."

2005 GMT: Controlling the Net. Global Voices Advocacy documents the Iranian regime's crackdown on bloggers and social media.

2000 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, a postgraduate student at Oxford University, has been released from detention after 60 days in solitary confinement.

1910 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Almost as soon as his latest letter to the Supreme Leader --- published in EA today --- appeared, journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad has been summoned back to Evin Prison.

Nourizad was on temporary leave from his 3 1/2-year sentence for the letters to Ayatollah Khamenei and the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani.

Women's rights activist Mahboubeh Karami has been released on $50,000 bail.

1805 GMT: Khamenei Speaks. The Supreme Leader is currently setting out Iran's foreign policy in a speech. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic News Agency has summarised his line --- denouncing the "stupidity" of the "military threat" to Iran --- in a meeting earlier today with the heads of Iran's three branches of Government.

More later....

1745 GMT: US-Iran Front. Has the Supreme Leader just thrown cold water on discussions over Tehran's uranium enrichment? This just in from his office's Twitter feed: "Iran's Leader emphasized that negotiation with USA under threat and pressure is not possible. We won't negotiate with anybody in this way."

1735 GMT: Nokia Siemens and Iran. An interesting twist on the claim, highlighted in a lawsuit by detained journalist Isa Saharkhiz (see 0830 GMT), that Nokia Siemens sold and provided to Iran "surveillance technology and equipment for monitoring of wireless networks and the internet".

Fars News claims that the malicious Stuxnet worm has been introduced onto Iranian computer systems via Siemens software.

1715 GMT: Parliament v. President. MP Heshmatollah Fallahatpisheh, a member of the Majlis National Security Commission, has linked the 1953 coup --- whose anniversary is tomorrow --- to today's events. Fallahatpisheh claims Iran's main problem is mismanagement and that the overthrow of the Mossadegh Government almost 60 years ago "shows that the biggest harms were inflicted upon the country when Parliament was weak". The Majlis, he asserted, must be at the head of affairs.

From the reformist side, Nasrullah Torabi has stated, "A sand fog of sedition and flattering prevents the truth from being revealed," and maintained, "Patience and victory are old friends."

But Ahmadinejad's camp has struck back. MP Hamidreza Taraghi of the Motalefeh party has criticised "some conservatives want to pass over the President and many senior officials". And the President's spokesman Ali Akbar Javanfekr declared, "During the 9th Presidential elections [of 2005], people didn't vote for conservatives, but for Ahmadinejad." (An EA correspondent asks, "But what about the 10th elections of 2009?")

1710 GMT: Women's Rights and the Green Movement. A challenge to leading activist Zahra Rahnavard from a blogger, who claims that Rahnavard has distorted "feminism" by saying that hijab can be imposed by the system like traffic laws, but women should accept it "with love" and not by force.

1705 GMT: Economy Watch. Deutsche Welle follows up the latest news from Iranian media on unemployment by noting that the jobless rate has doubled since President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005.

1635 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Daneshjoo News claims that intelligence officials are behind the transfer of student activist Majid Tavakoli from Evin Prison, where he was seen as the leader of the "riot" of the 17 hunger strikers, to Rajai Shahr Prison.

1620 GMT: Breaking (and Significant?) News. Fars News is reporting that the heads of the three branches of Government --- President Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani --- have met with the Supreme Leader. And it appears that Hashemi Rafsanjani, as head of the Expediency Council, was also there.

No details of the discussion are posted.

1505 GMT: Opposition Remarks. Green Correspondents features comments by Mehdi Karroubi in an on-line conversation with readers, and Kalemeh carries a statement by Mir Hossein Mousavi --- with a clear eye on the furour surrounding Ahmadinejad top aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai --- on Iran and Islam.

1445 GMT: War Chatter. The US talking-shop on a possible Israel attack on Tehran continues, though --- apart from the Bomb Iran editorial in The Washington Times (see 0700 GMT) --- the fever seems to have lessened today.

Gary Sick makes an incisive intervention on the Command Central set up at The Atlantic magazine --- "[This] is so transparently pushing the 'threat' of an Israeli attack in order to get the US to do something utterly foolish, that I have a very hard time even writing about it" --- before handing over to Joshua Pollack's commentary, "Some Straight Talk About Iran".

1300 GMT: Iran's Ramadan Music Ban. For days, we have been following the story that an Islamic prayer called "Rabbana,” sung by musical legend Mohammad Reza Shajarian and traditionally aired on Iranian state television and radio during the holy month, has yet to be broadcast during Ramadan.

This year, another version of the prayer, sung by a different singer, is reportedly being aired, leading to speculation that Shajarian has been "blacked out" because of his post-election criticism of the Government.

Now a twist: an Iranian state television official in charge of religious programming, Parviz Farsijani, said Shajarian's version has not been banned and that it could be aired in the coming days. However, Fars News is devoting its headling story to a lengthy denunciation of Shajarian's views on politics and religion and his association with the "Great Satan".

1255 GMT: Economy Watch. The Iranian Labor News Agency reports that unemployment of workers aged 15 to 29 has reached 26.1%.

1245 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Switzerland has imposed new economic restrictions against Iran.

1225 GMT: Parliament v. President. Key member of Parliament Ali Motahari says that the initiative by some conservative MPs to summon the President to the Majlis, to answer questions on his refusal to implement laws and on other subjects, is proceeding.

At least 1/4 of the Parliament --- 73 members --- have to join the initiative for Ahmadinejad to be compelled to appear.

According to MP Vali Esmaili, a protest letter against Presdiential chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, written by the reformist Mohajedin of Islamic Revolution party and signed by 183 MPs, will be sent to Ahmadinejad's office tomorrow. The letter was written and circulated after a discussion between 20 MPs and the President failed to find a resolution.

1220 GMT: The University Crisis. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, after a meeting with the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has said --- contrary to reports in outlets like Fars News --- the status of Islamic Azad University has not been decided and must be resolved by the Supreme Leader.

Control of the University system, which has 1.2 million students, is between disputed between Rafsanjani, the Parliament, and President Ahmadinejad.

1214 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Kayvan Samimi, Abdollah Momeni, and Bahman Ahmadi Amoui --- three of the 17 political prisoners who were on hunger strike --- have been moved out of solitary confinement. Thirteen other detainees (one was recently released) were put back into the ward for political prisoners a few days ago.

1210 GMT: Tough Talk This Week. The head of the operations department of Iran’s armed forces, Ali Shadmani, says Tehran has three contingency plans to confront “any possible aggression”, “undoubtedly” bringing an enemy to its knees: 1) closing the Strait of Hormuz and controlling it; 2) dealing with US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; 3) "Israel is the U.S.A.'s backyard. Therefore, we will destroy the peace at that backyard."

1205 GMT: Bank Squeeze? Rah-e-Sabz offers an overview of what it claims is a crisis in Iran's banking sector.

1155 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz reports that the latest session in the trial of journalist Emad Baghi was held yesterday.

0920 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Press TV, from Iranian Students News Agency, reports on an address by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to academics and students at Tehran University on Tuesday: “People, parties and statesmen should be prudent in maintaining unity against foreign meddling and mischief so as to disappoint enemies in fulfilling their vicious objectives....Unity and trust prevents the arrogant powers from taking advantage of their psychological warfare and safeguards the Islamic Republic ensuring the future of the country."

0830 GMT: Lawsuit. Radio Zamaneh has further information on the lawsuit filed in a US federal court by detained journalist Isa Saharkhiz and his son Mehdi against Nokia Siemens and its subsidiaries for the “sale and provision of surveillance technology and equipment for monitoring of wireless networks and the internet to Iran”.

0730 GMT: "Blogfather" on Trial. The sister of Hossein Derakhshan, journalist and one of the first prominent Iranian bloggers, writes that the third session of his trial was held in late July.

Derakhshan was arrested in November 2008 after he returned to Iran from Canada, where he had been living for eight years.

Some Iranian media have stoked up pressure for a heavy sentence on Derakhshan by claiming he is part of a UK intelligence network. An article in Mashreq, quoted by outlets such as the Revolutionary Guard-linked Javan, claims that the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London trains British diplomats and intelligence operatives, with funding from UK intelligence agencies. The report alleges 13 "escaped" Iranian journalists have applied for scholarships to take courses in the SOAS Centre for Media Studies --- Derakhshan is listed as one of the alumni of the programme.

0715 GMT: Iran MediaWatch. Asia newspaper has been banned and Sepidar and Parastou have lost their licences to publish.

0700 GMT: We begin this morning with two features. We have posted the "sixth and last" letter from Mohammad Nourizad, the journalist and filmmaker detained and now sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, to the Supreme Leader. And we have a story by Negar Esfandiary on Iranians, YouTube, and US sanctions.


Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

The statement of John Bolton, former Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to the UN, about the start-up of Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor (see yesterday's updates) may have been wildly inaccurate --- it has nothing to do with any pursuit of a military nuclear programme --- but his call for an Israeli airstrike on Iran by 21 August has had an effect.

This morning, the editors of The Washington Times pronounce, "Bombs Away in Three Days: It's Time to Strike Iran's Nuclear Program", concluding, "The time has come to demonstrate resolve in face of an imminent threat from Iran. The Free World depends on Israeli power."

The Latest from Iran (17 August): The Green Movement, Ahmadinejad, and a "Confession"

2040 GMT: Parliament v. President. Another possible front in the escalating battle between the Majlis and the Government: Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of the Majlis Energy Commission has said that, after the Government failed to offer a charter for the National Iranian Oil Company, Parliament will vote on its own charter next week.

2030 GMT: The Cleric's Challenge. Green Voice of Freedom summarises the Ramadan speech of Ayatollah Dastgheib: "The Supreme Leader is part of the Constitution, not above it."

1845 GMT: The Battle Within. Two more articles picking up on the growing challenge to President Ahmadinejad: Abbas Djavadi for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Mahan Abedin for Asia Times Online.

1440 GMT: We have posted a separate feature, following up our earlier updates, on what appears to be a Fars News effort (possibly instigated by the Revolutionary Guard) to discredit leading reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, detained in Evin Prison, through a supposed "confession" that Mir Hossein Mousavi lost the 2009 election.

NEW Iran Special: Have Fars (& Revolutionary Guard) Faked a Reformist “Confession” on Election?
NEW Iran Video: “His Excellency” Ahmadinejad Interviewed by George Galloway (15 August)
NEW Iran Analysis: What Has Green Movement Achieved? (Sahimi)
Iran Document: Mohammad Khatami on Religion, the Islamic Revolution, and the Republic (15 August)
Iran’s Battle Within: Ahmadinejad Appeals to Supreme Leader (Rafiee)

1335 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Mehdi Karroubi, meeting a group of young reformists, has declared, that the opposition "movement is not limited to one person, medi,a or group". Criticising the deceitful and fraudulent remarks and actions of the government and the repression of the people, he advised his listeners to see beyond partisan lines and always stay loyal to their fundamental beliefs and values.

Karroubi concluded that victory would inevitably be achieved with patience and perseverance.

1105 GMT: Reports indicate that an Iranian F4 fighter jet has crashed in the south of the country near the nuclear power plant being established at Bushehr.

1055 GMT: The University Crisis. Fars News is claiming that Abdollah Jasbi, the head of Islamic Azad University, will soon be stepping down.

If true, the development would be a setback for former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is trying to maintain influence over Iran's largest university system, with 1.3 million students, as President Ahmadinejad tries to take control of it.

1020 GMT: The Tajzadeh Election "Confession". An EA source says that the claimed video on Fars News of a detained reformist "confessing", "We lost the elections", is not from Evin Prison and could be in connection to a previous Presidential election. The source also says the audio may have been manipulated, thus the need for subtitles to give the "correct" interpretation.

1005 GMT: Fars News Special "Mostafa Tajzadeh: "We lost the elections". Fars News is pushing a video that it claims is the secretly-filmed confession of senior reformist and former Deputy Minister of Interior Mostafa Tajzadeh, speaking to fellow detainees Abdullah Ramezanzadeh and Mohsen Safai-Farahani.

Tajzadeh allegedly says, "I have experience in handling elections, so I know what happened. It is possible than one or two million votes have been displaced,we would have gotten 14-15 million votes. Not 25. We have lost the elections."

We cannot guarantee authenticity of the video. We are carrying out checks and also monitoring any reaction.

0950 GMT: War Chatter. An EA correspondent notes a discussion on Voice of America of the provocative "analysis" by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic --- which we considered last week on EA --- projecting a likely Israeli airstrike on Iranian facilities.

0940 GMT: How to Handle the US Government and the Stoning Issue. Keyhan responds to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent statement criticising the death sentences of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, condemned for adultery, and three other prisoners:
Hillary Clinton, the wife of former US President Bill Clinton, still has to use her husband's name despite becoming Secretary of State. Taking advantage of the exploitative and perverse principle of freedom of choice which Hillary Clinton speaks about, Bill Clinton betrayed her and had a lengthy illicit relationship with his secretary Monica Lewinski which even in the promiscuous US society became a major scandal. Furthermore, Condoleezza Rice was notorious in the media for being promiscuous in her relationships.

0920 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. An EA correspondent reports that the memoirs of former Hashemi Rafsanjani have been withdrawn from bookstands in Iran only a few weeks after they went on sale. (Could that be because of possible comparisons between the Iranian Government of the 1980s and the Iranian Government of today?)

In his introduction, Rafsanjani writes that his "hard-working staff" have copied all his diaries to CD ROM and stored them in a safe location. That's a message for Iran's security forces: if you raid the former President's offices, you won't get the original of his memoirs.

0855 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims that the officials of Ward 350 of Evin Prison have cancelled the mosque privileges of prisoners during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

0845 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Advar News reports that three of the 17 political prisoners who have recently ended their hunger strike --- Abdollah Momeni, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, and Keyvan Samimi --- are still in solitary confinement.

0825 GMT: Execution (Ashtiani) Watch. Following President Ahmadinejad's assurance that cases of death sentences by stoning were "insignificant" (see 0745 GMT), the Iranian Foreign Ministry has told other countries to stay out of the discussion over Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman whose scheduled execution has received international attention: "Independent nations do not allow other countries to interfere in their judicial affairs....Western nations must not pressurise and hype it (the case) up....Judicial cases have precise procedures, especially when it concerns murder."

0745 GMT: We have just posted the video of the interview of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressed as "His Excellency", by former British MP and current Press TV host George Galloway. The two men share their agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Palestine/Gaza before Galloway offers this hard-hitting challenge on "internal Iranian questions":
GALLOWAY: I have police protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my support for your election campaign. (Galloway is referring to an incident this winter when he was heckled at a post-election meeting in the Houses of Parliament.) I mention this so you know where I'm coming from....

The events after the election were a kind of mini-political earthquake, a section of the population rejecting the results and a section of them openly attacking the Islamic system itself. Can I ask you, "What does the Green Movement mean to you?"

AHMADINEJAD: ....There are people in the Islamic Republic of Iran who continue to criticise and attack the President, and they are sure that nobody is going to harass them. They have peace of mind and they are comfortable. We really have free and democratic elections in this country, and people are the main element of elections, and people are also the executors of elections....

The other point is the conspiracy and plans of the United States and its allies. Before the elections, they had announced they would do everything possible to prevent the Government of Ahmadinejad to be re-elected....

At the end of the day, we see 14 million people have not voted for me. So it will be quite natural if you see number of demonstrators reach 14 million, but the number of the protestors was very insignificant. The people of Iran are very much united....

[The President then speaks of the opposition "within the system", describing Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami but not naming them.]

GALLOWAY: Are they still inside the system?

AHMADINEJAD: Almost in the system. Of course, the people don't want them any longer. People have not voted for them. They have been successively defeated [during the Government's] two terms....

The post-election events was on the basis of a project made in the country and it was implemented inside the country among a limited number of people. The Islamic Republic of Iran did not intend to take a harsh attitude toward them....We have managed the situation with minimum cost....

GALLOWAY: Every so often an issue comes along which is seized upon by the enemies of Iran and magnified and it becomes a heavy problem. One such is the punishment scheduled originally against a woman convicted of adultery [Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani], the so-called stoning case.

I see that President Lula from Brazil has asked Iran if he can take this woman into exile there to solve this problem. Can Iran agree to this?

AHMADINEJAD: The number of such people [sentenced to death by stoning] is very, very insignficant. I talked to a judge at the end of the day, and judges are independent. But I talked to the head of the judiciary and the judiciary does not also agree with such a thing....I think there is no need to create some trouble for President Lula to take her to Brazil. We are keen to export our technology to Brazil....I think the problem is so limited.

0655 GMT: We begin this morning with Muhammad Sahimi's analysis, "What Has the Green Movement Achieved?"


Political Prisoner Watch

Majid Pashai, a student activist, has been given a two-year prison sentence.

War Talk

Neither the Green Movement nor political prisoners is getting a look in, however, with most US-based analysts. The Atlantic magazine --- motives to be considered in 25 words or less --- has re-made itself as Command Central for discussion of an Israeli strike on Tehran.

How far can one run with such chatter? Well, former Bush Administration official John Bolton used the news that Russia will supply uranium fuel rods to Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr to claim that Israel has until 21 August to attack Iran's nuclear facilities: "Once the rods are in the reactor an attack on the reactor risks spreading radiation in the air, and perhaps into the water of the Persian Gulf."

Bolton made the claim even though Bushehr has no connnection to uranium enrichment, let alone any Iranian military nuclear programme.

The Latest from Iran (6 August): The Campaign Against Ahmadinejad's Aide

1925 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Lede, the blog of The New York Times, has now noted the hunger strike of the 17 detainees in Evin Prison.

1915 GMT: The No-Longer-Missing Lawyer. Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei is under European diplomatic protection after Turkish authorities released him today from a detention center for illegal immigrants.

An Amnesty International  official says Mostafaei is expected to travel to Norway.

1730 GMT: Looks like we should name this the "Attacking Rahim-Mashai" thread. Another prominent member of Parliament (and Ali Larijani ally), Ahmad Tavakoli, has joined the criticism of the President's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, for his statements putting forth Iran rather than Islam as a source of emulation for other countries.

Tavakoli has insisted the Parliament will not remain silent in the face of the remarks.

NEW Iran-US Special: The 4-Step Collapse of Obama’s “Engagement” Into Confusion
Iraq and Iran: Has Ayatollah Sistani Challenged the Supreme Leader’s Authority? (Nafisi)
Iran-US Special: Obama Extends His Hand “Engagement, Not Conflict”
Iran Feature: Free Speech (and Some Laughs) in the Theatre (Tehran Bureau)
The Latest from Iran (5 August): Challenges

1625 GMT: Re-packaging the Friday Prayer. Press TV's entry on the Friday Prayer by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (see 1325 GMT) changes the priority to the message that "a possible US attack on the Islamic republic will jeopardize American interests in the world". Khatami's attack on Presidential advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, highlighted in other media accounts, seems to have disappeared.

1325 GMT: Your Friday Prayer Update. In a shocking development, the US was not the main target of today's Tehran Friday Prayer, delivered by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

So who got the honour?

Why, it's President Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and brother-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai!

Khatami, without naming Rahim-Mashai --- or, as Fars put it carefully, "an implicit reference to the words of a Government official" --- criticised those who put Iranian nationalism before Islam.

Earlier this week, Rahim-Mashai has said that it was Iran, rather than Islam, that now stood as an example for emulation by the rest of the world.

Elsewhere in the speech, Khatami went after the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, for his confirmation that the US had war plans for Iran. But, you know, that just couldn't match up with the apparent transgression of the President's favourite advisor.

(And what do you know? Moments later, I spot an article from Parleman News on Rahim-Mashai as the cause of division amongst principalists. And Tabnak is reporting the comments of conservative member of Parliament Ali Motahari that Ahmaidnejad must question Rahim-Mashai about his remarks.)

1200 GMT: The Battle Within. Ali Asghari, a member of the Expediency Council, has warned that principalism without reformism ends up in dictatorship.

1055 GMT: Talking Tough Today. The commander of Iran's army, Major General Ataollah Salehi, has warned enemies of a "crushing defeat" if they attack: "The army is ready to deal a heavy blow to any aggressors against Iran territories."

0955 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has issued a statement of support for the 17 hunger strikers in Evin Prison and their families.

0935 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online claims that only 20% of workers are receiving their food supplies for the holy month of Ramadan.

0930 GMT: Fretting. Looks like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is a bit worried: he has warned the board of Tarbiat Modarres University of the possibility of a "stronger" sedition. He declared that if young people are not religious, then the Revolution will be weakened.

0920 GMT: The Sale of History. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyed Mohammad Hosseini has declared, "We must promote the Iranian culture to find purity, because the world is hungry for this." He announced that he would give permits for books seeking this aim.

Hosseini may want have a word about his cultural mission with the President's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai: according to Rooz Online, the Cultural Heritage Organization, headed by Rahim-Mashai, plans to sell some of Iran's historic artifacts.

0915 GMT: Backing the President? Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi of the Assembly of Experts, one of the most vocal supporters of the Government, has given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mixed support against claims from "hard-liners" that he has been soft on cultural issues. Haeri Shirazi, criticising Western values in Iranian education, refers to the President's campaign to "Islamise" schools but leaves the impression that Ahmadinejad has not been up to the mark in enforcing hijab.

Haeri Shirazi also made a spirited defence of the Supreme Leader's authority.

0910 GMT: Oil Crash and Squeeze. Peyke Iran is reporting that two planes of the National Iranian Oil Company have collided at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran.

Citing Reuters, the website adds that Turkey's exports of gasoline to Iran have increased.

0640 GMT: A Message to Washington. Reformist member of Parliament Amir Taherkhani has said the US is unwise 2 let "Zionists" have a free hand, warning that adventurism will cause a crisis.

0633 GMT: Missiles and False News. Peyke Iran, quoting Deutsche Welle, claims that the "news" of delivery of four S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran --- two from Belarus and two from an unspecified source --- was removed by Fars News within two hours of publication.

0629 GMT: No Justice. In an interview with the mother and lawyer of Neda Agha Soltan, the woman shot to death by a Basij militiaman on 20 June 2009, Fereshteh Ghazi claims that the suspect in the case has disappeared.

0625 GMT: The Guards and the Economy. Mehdi Eliasi, writing in Rooz Online, has evaluated how the increasing involvement of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the economy is undermining the foundations of the private sector.

0615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A group of students and alumni of Azad University of Tehran have released a statement objecting to Ali Malihi’s four-year prison sentence and his detention in solitary confinement, expressing concern over his physical and psychological state and well-being.

Malihi has been detained for seven months, spending about 40 days in solitary. He is one of the 17 political prisoners now on hunger strike.

0605 GMT: The Campaign Against Jannati. It is not just opposition clerics and politicians who are pressing Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, after his recent claim of $1 billion given to the Green "leaders" and another $50 billion promised by the US and Saudi Arabia for regime change. Conservative member of Parliament Nayyereh Akhavan has also declared that Jannati should show the documents proving his allegation.

0545 GMT: Mousavi and the Hunger Strike. Mir Hossein Mousavi has praised the resistance of 17 political prisoners on hunger strike in Evin Prison, while asking them to end it:
All seekers of freedom and righteousness have heard your message and have witnessed your resistance for your humanitarian and legitimate demands.

Now that that your message and your families’ struggle has spread across the globe and within the country, the nation is concerned about your health as Green assets for the country. We urge you to end your hunger strike and call on prison officials to respect the rights of all prisoners based on the flawed rule and regulations that exist and not to allow for the country’s reputation to be further tarnished in the eyes of the world’s nations.

The 17 strikers include Bahman Ahmadi Amooei (journalist), Hossein Nourinejad (journalist and member of Islamic Iran Participation Front), Abdollah Momeni (student activist and spokesperson for the Office for Fostering Unity), Ali Parviz (student activist), Hamidreza Mohammadi (political activist), Jafar Aghdami (civil activist), Babak Bordbar (photojournalist), Ebrahim (Nader) Babaei (civil activist and wounded veteran of the Iran-Iraq war), Kouhyar Goudarzi (human rights activist and weblog writer), Keyvan Samimi (journalist), and Mohammad Hossein Sohrabi Rad.

0535 GMT: International Front. Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Emomali Rahman of Tajikistan were in Tehran on Thursday at the opening of the “Fourth Meeting of Persian-Speaking Countries”, and meet with high-ranking Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There were few substantive details in Fars News, which said Karzai and Rahman supported peaceful nuclear energy and agreements were signed to combat terrorism and fight drug trafficking. However, Karzai's visit comes as the US is escalating its effort in Afghanistan and may be looking for Iranian co-operation.

0525 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims that authorities are putting pressure on political prisoners by "exiling" them to prisons distant from their hometowns, thus hindering the ability of families to visit them.

Student activist Atafeh Nabavi, who was detained in the mass protest of 15 June 2009 and is serving a four-year sentence, has written an open letter to the 17 hunger strikers in Evin Prison:
I know that when you began your action, you knew that any protest in this country will have disproportionate costs. I honor your stance and your weakened existence, and I wish that you get what you deserve in this unfair battle.

0515 GMT: After a break last night, we start by noting yesterday's attack, possibly by Basij militia members, on opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi.

Karroubi was attending a funeral at Nour Mosque in Tehran when it was surrounded by individuals, allegedly armed, who threw eggs at the cleric when he left. His bodyguards tried to scatter the assailants by shooting into the air.

The news was first reported by Fars but was later confirmed by Karroubi's Taghi.

Mehdi Karroubi has been attacked by pro-government groups several times since the 2009 election, most recently in June when he was visiting Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, another critic of the Government. He was uninjured in yesterday's incident.