Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, commenting Jan. 14 on the murder of a leading quantum physicist, said, "The method of bombing was a Zionist one." The scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, died when a bomb strapped to a motorbike was triggered by remote control as he was leaving his home the morning of Jan. 12. Hundreds attended his funeral, shouting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, both former presidents who now support the oppsotion, condemned the attack in separate statements. (Indian Express, AlJazeera, Jan. 15)
Iran's Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei on Jan. 11 called for sedition trials against leaders of the protests following last June's contested presidential election. In a statement to Tehran prosecutors, Ejei said that he supported calls by religious and civil authorities to try those who led anti-government protests for "mohareb," or "enmity against God," which is punishable by execution. In a letter addressed to the Iranian people, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said that he would not be deterred from continuing to push for reform by threats of prosecution.
At least five protesters arrested in Iran during last week's protests will be tried on charges of "enmity against God," which carries an automatic death sentence if they are convicted. In another sign of an intensified crackdown on dissidents, a Kurdish activist, Fasih Yasamani, 28, was executed Jan. 6 by hanging at Khoy prison in Azarbaijan province, on charges of "enmity against God" and membership in the Kurdish separatist group PJAK, according to the opposition Human Rights Activists News Agency. If true, he was the second Kurdish activist executed in Iran in recent months, following the November execution of Ehsan Fattahian. At least 17 other activists are on death row.
On a tour of Central Asia, Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad arrived in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat Jan. 5 to inaugurate a new natural-gas pipeline linking the the two countries. The Dovletabat-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline was formally opened in a ceremony with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. When fully operational, will more than double Turkmen gas exports to Iran—from 8 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually to 20 bcm.
An Iranian parliamentary inquiry has found that Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi was responsible for the deaths of at least three detainees involved in protests that followed the June 12 presidential election, the conservative Alef website reported Jan. 6. The report alleges that Mortazavi, the prosecutor responsible for overseeing the Kahrizak prison, ordered that the prisoners be transferred to Kahrizak, where they were tortured and beaten to death.
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar on Jan. 5 warned opposition activists that they could face execution if they continue anti-government protests. Najjar's statement came one day after the Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi announced that "Several foreigners are among those who were arrested on the day of Ashura," when Tehran was rocked by street clashes that left at least four dead and some 300 arrested. Najjar said that the foreigners would also face punishment if found guilty of crimes. (Jurist, Tehran Times, Jan. 5)
Eleven Iranian police agents were killed when a highway patrol intercepted what officials called an "illicit drug convoy" in Southern Khorasan Province near the Afghan border Jan. 1. Four traffickers were also reported wounded in the clash, and one wounded. Reports said police "attempted to confiscate" around two tons of drugs—but did not indicate what type of drugs, or if the confiscation was successful. Reports also indicate the convoy was headed north, which is not the most logical route if it was leaving Afghanistan, as accounts implied.
In a fourth consecutive day of protests during the Ashura holy period in Iran, police fired teargas Dec. 28 to disperse supporters of reformist leader Mirhossein Mousavi who gathered in Tehran to express their condolences over his nephew's death in an anti-government rally. Iranian authorities say the death toll in the past 48 hours stands at eight, with some 60 injured. (Reuters, Dec. 28)