Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Iranian Night of the Long Knives? Wave of arrests and closures signals sinister new phase in crackdown

The wave of closures and arrests ordered by Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi yesterday, September 8, signals a sinister new phase in the regime's crackdown.

On Monday, in what should now be considered the kickoff for an orchestrated operation, government agents searched the offices of the opposition committee looking into the abuse and deaths of protesters. The prosecutor's men had an appointment, supposedly to investigate the allegations of abuse, but upon arriving at the offices, they presented staff with a search warrant, sealed the locale, and confiscated documents and computer equipment, according to Alireza Beheshti, spokesman for the committee.
Beheshti, a senior adviser to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested at home the next day. He is the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, one of the key figures of the revolution and the first judiciary chief of the Islamic Republic. As one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's close companions, Ayatollah Beheshti, who was assassinated in 1981, is a devotional and iconic personality in Iran.

Alireza Beheshti's wife told Salaam News that five security agents arrived at their home at 5 PM and searched the premises for the next four hours. According to the same report, after arresting Alireza Beheshti, the prosecutor's men went to Ayatollah Beheshti's foundation and archives, where they seized documents and computers before shutting down the place.

The scope and pace of the operation had picked up earlier that day, as security forces raided the offices of Mehdi Karroubi, head of the reformist Etemad Melli Party, in Tehran's Jamshidiyeh district. The search and closure of Karroubi's office began at 3PM, party spokesman Esmail Gerami Moghaddam, who was in a meeting with Karroubi when the raid took place, told BBC Persian. 'The government agents began collecting documents, CDs, computers, and films,' according to Gerami Moghaddam. Karroubi has loudly denounced the abuse and deaths of protesters and has offered to provide judicial authorities with audio, video, and documentary evidence that he has compiled.

'The agents went from there to the Etemad Melli Party offices and sealed that as well,' Karroubi's son, Hossein, said in an interview with Radio Farda.

Security forces later visited the home of Morteza Alviri, head of the opposition committee investigating election fraud and also a member of Beheshti's abuse and deaths committee. Alviri's home was searched and documents and computer equipment were taken, before he was arrested.

The Association for the Defense of Prisoners, founded by human rights activist Emadeddine Baghi, no stranger to Iranian prisons, was also sealed yesterday. Baghi's whereabouts are currently unknown and it is unclear whether he has been arrested. Security agents gave no reason for the closure, but human rights lawyer Farideh Gheirat who runs the association told Radio Farda, 'We had contacts with these opposition committees, but our activities were legal. We provided lawyers for the prisoners. [The reason for the closure] could also be that we had received reports of abuse at Kahrizak detention center for the past two or three years and we had transmitted these reports to the judiciary.'

Mohammad Ozlati Moghaddam, in charge of the Mousavi campaign's veterans committee, was among those arrested yesterday. According to Ayandeh news, Ozlati Moghaddam is a retired Revolutionary Guards general who used to be posted to the IRGC Political Bureau. The political bureau operates under the auspices of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Security forces arrived at his home at 8:20 PM, as reported by Mowjeh Azadi.

Also among the arrested is Mohammad Davari, editor of the Etemad Melli Party's Saham News web site, who was at Karroubi's office when it was raided. At 8 PM GMT, Wednesday September 9, the site had not posted any new articles since 9:40 AM GMT, Tuesday September 8.

The last headline quotes Mehdi Karroubi: 'We shall all be present on Ghods Day.'

More than ever, the mass demonstrations planned for Ghods Day, Friday September 18, appear to be a test for the durability of the Green movement.

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