Monday, December 28, 2009

Wave of arrests after a bloody Ashura: Night of the long knives redux?

The Islamic regime has embarked on a broad campaign of arrests following the massive protests on Ashura, December 27, according to a number of official and opposition news sites.

The arrests have not been restricted to Tehran. Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, the head of the Association of Teachers and Researchers of the Ghom Seminaries, was arrested last night, according to the Borna news site, close to the regime. The clerical organization has supported the opposition movement's calls for freedom and reform. Borna reported that Mousavi Tabrizi was arrested in Ghom as 'the [association] sought to create unrest on the occasion of Imam Hossein's shameh ghariban' (NB a gathering, usually around a meal, to remember those who are absent). The detention of the well-known ayatollah may have been the hasty decision of a local security official since Borna's report has since been removed from the site and Fars news issued a succint article in which an anonymous source denied Mousavi Tabrizi had been arrested. Fars news did not explain why Mousavi Tabrizi himself had not been sought for a confirmation or denial.

Ebrahim Yazdi, 76, secretary general of the Freedom Movement of Iran and a former foreign minister in the post-revolutionary period, was arrested at his home at 3 AM on Monday, December 28, by intelligence agents, per Radio Farda. Yazdi had already been detained on June 17 while undergoing medical tests for a cancer, shortly after the disputed presidential election, but had been released later that month. The opposition Jonbesheh Raheh Sabz news site reported that Leila Tavasoli, Yazdi's niece, was also taken away from her home by security agents at 1:30 AM.

Emadeddine Baghi, prominent human rights activist and the founder of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights, was taken into custody this morning. Baghi, who was jailed in Evin prison last year, had been threatened by intelligence agents during Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri's funeral last week. His wife and children were insulted while his house was searched and he was arrested, according to Advar news, the news site of the national alumni association. The news site reported that Baghi told his children that he would 'stand strong in prison' as he was taken away. At that point, one of the agents turned to the family and said, 'He won't live long enough to stand strong.' Baghi won the Martin Ennals Award, one of the most prestigious human rights prizes in the world, in 2009. He was also awarded the 2008 prize for International Journalist of the Year by the British press.

The news service of the United Student Front reported the arrest of prominent political figure Heshmatollah Tabarzadi around noon on Monday. Yesterday evening Tabarzadi, a former student leader and political activist, participated by telephone in a program on the Voice of America and denounced the regime's use of force against protesters. He called on the opposition to remain peaceful despite the regime's provocations. He was released from prison in May 2008 after serving a seven-year sentence for founding the Democratic Front, insulting the Supreme Leader, and propagating against the state.

Various sources also speak of the arrests of individuals in opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's inner circle. According to these reports, Mohammad Bagherian, Mousavi's senior adviser, and Ghorban Behzadian Nejad, the head of his campaign staff, were detained earlier today. There has also been conflicting information about the possible arrest of Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, no relation to Alireza Beheshti, who ran the Kalemeh web site, the news service of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Parleman news reported that security agents took Morteza Haji, director of the Baran Foundation and former minister of higher education, and Hassan Rasouli, his deputy and a former governor of Khorasan province, into custody this morning. Security agents sealed and confiscated the foundation's documents. The Baran Foundation was created by former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and its motto is 'Freedom, growth, and prosperity for Iran.'

Abolfazl Ghadiani, a senior member of the opposition Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution party, was also arrested hours ago. The same security agents then went to the residence of the party's spokesman, Mohsen Armin, but failed to take him into custody because of he was not at home.

Mohammad Sadegh Rabani, a senior member of the Iranian Peace Council, was picked up by a Basiji patrol on the corner of Ostad Nejatollahi and Taleghani streets in Tehran at approximately 1:30 PM yesterday, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. Rabani is the brother of the late Ayatollah Haj Mehdi Rabani, the Prosecutor General of the country under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Reza Al Basha, a Syrian journalist working for Dubai TV, has been missing since yesterday. According to Tabnak, the news site of former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai, efforts by the Islamic Guidance Ministry and the police to locate Al Basha have been fruitless thus far. Tabnak wrote that the reporter 'did not have any camera and was present in the areas of unrest out of curiosity. He had no intention to produce a television or news report.'