Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The way they were: Ahmadinejad and Samareh Hashemi in the early 1980s

The following photo shows a group of university students in their mid-twenties relaxing in a dormitory room at Tehran's Elm-o-Sanat (Science and Technology) University, circa early 1980s.

On the extreme left of the photo you can see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an engineering student, leaning back with a smirk on his face and sporting a chin-curtain beard. Fifth from the left is the bearded Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, currently his senior adviser and a key figure in his political life.

It is hard not to think of what was going through those young minds back then. Could the young Ahmadinejad imagine that such university dorm rooms would be devastated by armed goons and security forces, the students beaten to a pulp, a few decades later during his presidency?

Samareh Hashemi is considered to be a very influential political figure in the Islamic Republic due to the patronage of arch-conservative cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, his ties to the Basij and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, his family affiliations (he is the nephew of the late Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar and the current Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar) and his symbiotic relationship with his childhood friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Newsweek called him an Iranian Karl Rove in its May 23, 2009 issue, referring to the architect of George Bush's ascension to the presidency. Last year, he resigned from his post as senior presidential adviser to become the head of Ahmadinejad's re-election campaign. He is believed to have been behind Ahmadinejad's letters to President George Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Barack Obama coincidentally was sent after Samareh Hashemi's reinstatement within the president's inner circle a few months ago.

Here is a more recent photo of Samareh Hashemi and Ahmadinejad.

And to complete this walk down memory lane, here's the reaction of students at Ahmadinejad and Samareh Hashemi's alma mater, Tehran's Elm-o-Sanat University which has become a hotbed of dissent, on April 13, 2010, when Samareh Hashemi tried to give a speech on the nuclear issue. The students walked out and began singing the protest anthem 'Yareh Dabestaniyeh Man':


As an addendum to this post and to continue the debate launched in the comments below, I'm posting the photo referred to by Mark Pyruz, purportedly of Ahmadinejad during the Iran-Iraq War, and some photos of Ali Sayyad Shirazi in a separate post, which you can go to by clicking here.

Three death sentences in Kahrizak trial: Justice served?

The trail of murder and torture is long, but the quest for justice will seemingly end behind the closed doors of a military courthouse with death sentences against three unnamed defendants. 

In an exclusive report published on April 21, 2010, a conservative news site claimed that three death sentences will be delivered in the case involving the torture and murder of at least three protesters held in the Kahrizak detention center south of Tehran.

The trial, presided by Judge Mohammad Mossadegh, is widely considered to be a gesture on the part of the regime to placate public opinion and put an end to the uproar caused by the murder, torture, and abuse of dozens of post-election protesters by punishing a small number of relatively junior officers for a tiny fraction of the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic's security forces. The judiciary has not announced any plans to prosecute anyone for the murders of dozens of other protesters, the documented cases of torture, or prison rape.

Farda News, not to be confused with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Radio Farda, wrote today, 'Based on what Farda has heard, the court trying the defendants in the Kahrizak case is ready to issue its verdicts and apparently death sentences have been issued for three of them.'

Farda did not explain why it would be privy to court verdicts which have yet to be announced publicly.

It is also unclear whether the secretive trial held behind closed doors will lead to justice or will ease concerns about human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. The Armed Forces Judiciary Organization announced the start of the court hearings in a carefully worded and customarily uninformative statement released on March 9. The names of the 12 alleged defendants were withheld, but it was stated that the session was held in the presence of the 'next of kin, other plaintiffs, and their lawyers.'

Judge Mossadegh announced on the same day, 'Given that a portion of the case file contains information and topics whose publication would be detrimental to public order and discipline in the country, it is forbidden for those present in this court to publish information about the trial.'

Since the Armed Forces Judiciary Organization was trying the case, it was assumed at the time that the defendants were solely members of the Islamic Republic's security forces. The Farda News report however alleges, 'Two of the individuals sentenced to death are police officers and the other person is one of the louts and thugs who had been in Kahrizak from before.'

'Louts and thugs' -- arazel va obash -- is an unsavory term often used by the Islamic Republic when it is engaged in 'cleaning up' crime-ridden neighborhoods. The lack of information concerning this individual is particularly worrisome since he could be a common criminal set up as a scapegoat in this case. There are also reports that the judiciary is hiding the actual number of political prisoners by charging such individuals with common crimes.

Thousands of protesters in the post-election unrest of the summer were arrested by security forces and hundreds were held at the Kahrizak detention center, a fancy name for the collection of dark, stiflinng and unhygienic silos and partially buried structures, in conditions considered so inhumane that Leader Ali Khamanei was compelled to order it shut in late July. The conservative Farda News proudly proclaims this fact in its short report.

After months of denial and a less-than-convincing investigation into the abuse of prisoners and protesters by a special committee of the legislature, the Islamic Republic finally admitted that three individuals had been tortured to death at the facility, largely because one of the victims was Mohsen Rouholamini, 25, son of regime insider Abdolhossein Rouholamini. The other two victims finally recognized by the regime are Amir Javadifar, 25, and Mohammad Kamrani, 18. Farda News writes in a factually-challenged segment of its report, 'The representatives of the Majlis and officials of the judiciary have repeatedly stressed the importance of pursuing this case with determination and strongly punishing the transgressors.'

Rouholamini's head had been battered by a blunt instrument and his jaw was shattered. Then Health Minister Kamran Lankarani said that he had died from meningitis, a claim that Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, a young conscript who visited Kahrizak once a week as a part of his military service, refused to second.

Pourandarjani later died in suspicious circumstances at the dormitory of the military medical services building. Officials initially said that this key witness of the abuses at Kahrizak had committed suicide. The report of the Majlis's special investigative committee does not even mention Pourandarjani and the case is in legal limbo.

Javadifar, a student at Ghazvin University, died while he was being transferred from Kahrizak to Evin Prison. A friend who saw his body at the morgue told RFE/RL's Radio Farda, 'He had a fractured skull, one of his eyes was almost crushed, all the nails on his toes had been extracted, and all of his body was bruised.' Kamrani was arrested in Tehran's Vali Asr Square on July 9. He was tortured at Kahrizak and died of his injuries in Mehr Hospital.

The special investigative committee's report also fails to mention a number of other alleged deaths at Kahrizak, notably that of Ramin Aghazadeh Ghahremani, who died of his injuries after he was released. Aghazadeh Ghahremani was mentioned by Mohsen Rouholamini's father in a subsequent complaint about the special investigation's lack of zeal.

But the greatest shortcoming of what appears to be a sham trial is the absence of at least two senior officials in the defendants' box: Then Tehran Revolutionary Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi and National Police Commander Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam.

Mortazavi said that he was on vacation when the events occurred, a dog-ate-my-homework excuse (incidentally untrue) which has apparently convinced the judiciary of his innocence. Mortazavi was promoted to the post of deputy prosecutor general, then promoted again to head the national agency which fights financial corruption and smuggling.

Ahmadi Moghaddam announced that the atrocities were limited to the Kahrizak detention center and that they had been carried out by rogue elements.

His plea of innocence has also been accepted.