Iran Says Executing Child Offenders Is Not A Rights Violation

Iran’s flag.

 

Iran’s use of the death penalty for crimes committed as minors does not mean it violates human rights, a senior Iranian official has insisted to AFP in response to UN criticism.

The Islamic republic executes convicts for crimes they committed while under-age “three to four times” a year, argued Majid Tafreshi of the state-run High Council for Human Rights.

Such uses of capital punishment are “not a symbol of violations of human rights,” he said in an interview with AFP, charging that criticism of the practice was “not fair”.

“When we are talking about under-18s, we are not talking about six or five years old. We are talking about mainly our 17 years old big boys (where) the court recognised their maturity.”

The United Nations and human rights groups frequently criticise Iran for executing child offenders, which violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that Tehran has ratified.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet last week pointed to Iran’s “widespread use of the death penalty” and said that “over 80 child offenders are on death row, with at least four at risk of imminent execution”.

Tafreshi, the council’s deputy head of international affairs, rejected international criticism.

He said the council’s broad goal “is minimising the number of executions… as much as possible”, calling it an effort for which “nobody applauds Iran”.

Iran last year executed at least four people found guilty of murders committed when they were minors, according to the UN.

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‘Barbaric sanctions’ 

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and president Ebrahim Raisi gives a news conference after voting in the presidential election, at a polling station in the capital Tehran, on June 18, 2021. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP).

 

 

Murder is punishable by death in Iran, according to the Islamic law of retribution that demands an “eye for an eye”. Convicts’ lives can be spared however if the victim’s family agrees to pardon them.

Tafreshi pointed out that Islam’s holy book the Koran says that demanding the convict’s execution “is your right as a victim’s family” — but also that showing mercy and agreeing to a pardon is “good for you”.

Usually, he said, “we’re trying to convince the victim’s family to pardon” child offenders sentenced to death.

Tafreshi said the council routinely seeks to find money to compensate victims’ families and to convince them to grant a reprieve, sometimes in a process that takes many years.

These efforts result in pardons agreed by victims’ families in 96 percent of cases, according to Tafreshi.

He argued that Iran’s penal code shows “leniency” toward child offenders and that judges make special efforts to determine if a homicide was intentional and the offender mature enough to understand the nature of the crime.

Tafreshi dismissed as “propaganda” charges by the UN, foreign governments and rights groups that many Iranian detainees are tortured and denied fair trials, adding that any suspected such cases are investigated.

He also pointed to what he labelled Western countries’ own human rights violations, including the United States’ “barbaric sanctions” on Iran, and British and French arms sales to Arab monarchies of the Gulf region.

AFP

Concerns Rise In Iran Over Internet Access

Iran’s flag.

 

A group of Iranian lawmakers are working on a draft bill that could further restrict access to the internet, a reformist newspaper said Sunday.

The bill calls for “organising social media” and the banning of virtual private network (VPN) software used widely by Iranians to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on several social media websites, according to Etemad.

Over the past few days, internet users in Iran have expressed concern over the draft bill proposed by some conservative lawmakers, who hold the majority in parliament since 2020.

The text also calls for jails terms of between 91 days and six months for any one found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law, according to Etemad.

Repeat offenders could also be fined, receive up to 30 lashes and be “deprived of their civic rights”, the newspaper said.

It accused the lawmakers behind the draft of acting against “the most basic rights of citizens” and against “freedom of expression and media freedoms”.

Etemad said the bill also aims at banning altogether the use of foreign social media, with Iranians left with locally-developped networks that would help authorities control their content.

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Instagram and WhatsApp are the only social media services accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook and Twitter and the Telegram messenger service which are officially banned.

And yet several Iranian figures use Twitter for official communications, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Parliament’s news agency ICANA on Sunday quoted deputy Ali Yazdikhah, a member of the commission of cultural affairs, as confirming the existence of a draft bill on internet use.

But he told the agency the bill was aimed at firms that develop VPN, “not users”, and also bemoaned “the lack of controls in cyberspace”.

AFP

US Seizes Iranian State News Websites

Photo: [email protected]

 

US Justice Department said Wednesday it had seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah, which it said were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions.

Visitors to leading Iranian media sites like Press TV and Al-Alam, the country’s main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Huthis, were met with single-page statements declaring the website “has been seized by the United States Government” accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department.

The 33 websites were held by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), itself controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC).

Both IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries.

Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group which owned three sites that were seized, is a hardline military faction with close ties to Tehran that Washington has formally designated a terror group.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the immediate parent of Al-Alam, reported that other web domains, including Palestine-Al Youm, a Palestinian-directed broadcaster, and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were among those seized.

Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also frozen by the United States, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.

IRIB accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region.”

On the website of their political wing, the Huthi branded the action “American piracy and copyright confiscation.”

“The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice,” they said.

A-Masirah quickly established a new website, using its name but swapping the .net domain for .com.

Meanwhile, LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programs, AFP journalists said.

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‘Malign influence operations’

File photo of the Iranian flag

 

IRTVU was designated for sanctions last year for “brazen attempts to sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters,” the Justice Department said.

“IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations,” the department said in a statement.

US officials meanwhile have tied Kataeb Hezbollah to rocket and other attacks on sites in Iraq where American soldiers and diplomats reside, and say that the groups is supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Justice Department did not identify the US company or companies which owned the domains that hosted the websites, or explain how they had been able to host them contrary to sanctions.

The US action came as Washington seeks to restore the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six major countries to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

In 2018 then-president Donald Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the agreement, alleging that Iran was not adhering to its commitments, though independent nuclear inspectors said it was.

Upon taking office this year, President Joe Biden committed to rejoining the agreement and talks with Iran on what both sides would do to resume the pact have gone on for weeks.

EU negotiator Enrique Mora said on Sunday that those involved in the talks were “closer” to saving the Iran nuclear deal but that sticking points remain.

The US action also came just after Iranians chose ultraconservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi as president in an election the US State Department characterized as neither free nor fair.

AFP

Iran’s Raisi Calls For Effective Nuclear Talks, Rules Out Biden Meet

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and president-elect Ebrahim Raisi gives a news conference after voting in the presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

 

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday he will not allow nuclear negotiations for the sake of negotiations, in his first news conference since winning election last week.

Raisi also ruled out meeting US President Joe Biden but said there were “no obstacles” to resuming diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-ruled regional rival of Shiite Iran, which have been severed for five years.

Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.

Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — in August.

“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but… we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiations’ sake,” Raisi said of the nuclear talks.

“Any meeting must produce a result… for the Iranian nation,” he added.

The 2015 deal saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear capabilities in return for an easing of sanctions, but former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and ramped up sanctions, prompting the Islamic republic to pull back from its nuclear commitments.

Trump’s successor Biden has signalled his readiness to return to the deal and state parties — also including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have lately been negotiating its revival in Vienna.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Sunday that there was “no reason to believe” that Raisi’s government would take “a different position” in the talks than its predecessor.

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No’ to Biden meet

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

An austere figure from the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment, Raisi smiled and raised his hands as he arrived for Monday’s press conference.

When asked by a Russian media outlet whether he would meet Biden and try to “fix” issues between them in the event the nuclear talks lead to the US lifting sanctions on Iran, he replied, flatly: “No”.

Raisi also said his administration would be open to restoring ties with Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia.

“There are no obstacles from Iran’s side to re-opening embassies… there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Ties between Tehran and Riyadh were cut in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

The two sides have been engaged in talks hosted by Baghdad since April to improve relations.

Raisi, who is subject to US sanctions imposed over the executions of political prisoners in 1988, has in the past denied he played a role in the killings.

‘Always defending human rights’

France’s foreign ministry said Monday that it had “taken note” of Raisi’s victory and that it remained “fully mobilised” to implement the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We reaffirm the concerns we have regularly expressed regarding the human rights situation in Iran,” it added in a statement.

At Monday’s news conference, Raisi accused the west of violating human rights.

“All that I have done through my years of service has always been towards defending human rights,” said the Iranian president-elect.

Raisi, whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.

His victory had been widely anticipated after the Guardian Council, made up of 12 clerics and jurists, had approved just seven candidates, all men, out of a field of almost 600 hopefuls.

Three of those vetted candidates dropped out two days before the vote.

Raisi said there was a “massive” voter turnout in Friday’s election.

“This meaningful presence of the people, their massive presence, came about despite the coronavirus situation, despite the many enmities and psychological warfare of the Iranian nation’s enemies,” he said.

Turnout reached 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll since Iran’s 1979 revolution ousted the US-backed monarchy.

Participation had been expected to be low in a country where many have been demoralised by years of painful economic crisis that was brought on by a crippling US sanctions regime and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Raisi Iran Win Is A ‘Wake Up’ For Nuclear Pact Parties – Israel PM

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi gives a news conference after voting in the presidential election, at a polling station in the capital Tehran, on June 18, 2021. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

 

Israel’s new premier Naftali Bennett Sunday described the victory of ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi in Iran’s presidential election as a “wake up” call for parties to a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Raisi was elected with just under 62 percent of votes cast in Friday’s poll, and will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — in August.

“Raisi’s election is, I would say, the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and to understand who they are doing business with,” said Bennett, in remarks at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The 2015 deal saw Iran accept limits on its nuclear capabilities in return for an easing of sanctions, but former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and ramped up sanctions, prompting Tehran to pull back from its nuclear commitments.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signalled his readiness to return to the deal and state parties — also including China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — have lately been negotiating its revival in Vienna.

Israel and Iran are arch enemies and the Jewish state has always opposed the nuclear agreement, which it says could enable the Islamic republic to develop nuclear arms.

A change of Israeli government a week ago — which saw long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ousted from office — has not changed the country’s policy on this matter.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gives an address before the new cabinet at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 13, 2021. Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP

 

In an initial reaction to Raisi’s election win, Israel’s foreign ministry said late Saturday that the international community should be alarmed because of his commitment to a “rapidly advancing military nuclear program”.

It also described Raisi as Iran’s “most extremist president to date”.

Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon.

Jewish nationalist Bennett came to power last Sunday after Israel’s parliament approved a disparate coalition that gives him the premiership until 2023, when his main partner in the new alliance — centrist Yair Lapid — is due to take over.

Lapid, who became foreign minister as part of the coalition agreement, earlier this week pledged Israel “will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb” and said he was opposed to a revival of the 2015 deal.

AFP

Iran Explosives Factory Blast Injures Nine

File photo of the Iranian flag

 

At least nine people were injured in a blast on Sunday at a plant producing explosive materials in Iran’s central province of Isfahan, ISNA news agency reported.

The blast ocurred at Sepahan Nargostar Chemical Industries at 4:00 am local time (2330 GMT) due to “unclear reasons still being investigated,” said Mansour Shisheforoush, head of the province’s crisis management organisation.

Nine factory workers were injured and transferred to hospital, he added.

He said several investigative teams are currently at the scene to determine the cause of the blast.

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The plant is located about 45 kilometres (just under 30 miles) northwest of Isfahan city.

The company manufactures “industrial-commercial explosive materials” and was established in 1941, according to its website.

AFP

Iran Accuses Israel Of Sabotage At Nuclear Site, Vows revenge

This file handout satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on January 28, 2020, shows an overview of Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, south of the capital Tehran. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies / AFP

 

Iran charged Monday that its arch-enemy Israel was behind an attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and vowed it would take “revenge” and ramp up its nuclear activities.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said a “small explosion” had hit the plant’s electricity distribution centre Sunday in what the foreign ministry called an Israeli act of “terrorism”.

The latest of a string of incidents hitting Iran’s nuclear programme came days after talks resumed in Vienna to salvage the battered 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that former US president Donald Trump abandoned.

His successor Joe Biden wants to revive the accord between Iran and six world powers, which places limits on Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for relief from punishing economic sanctions.

Israel strongly opposes the nuclear deal and has vowed to stop Iran from building an atomic bomb — a goal Tehran has always denied pursuing.

Iran initially reported a power blackout had hit the Natanz site Sunday, a day after it announced it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges banned under the deal.

Israel did not claim responsibility for the incident, but unsourced media reports in the country attributed it to the Israeli security services carrying out a “cyber operation”.

The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been “an Israeli role” in the attack in which an explosion had “completely destroyed” the power system that fed the site’s “underground centrifuges”.

The White House Monday said the US “was not involved in any manner”, in the attack.

“We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

– Israeli ‘terrorism’ –
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while hosting US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem, reiterated his stance that Israel will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without mentioning the Natanz incident.

“I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel, and Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism,” he said Monday.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh vowed that Iran’s response to the Natanz incident would be to take “revenge on the Zionist regime” when and where Tehran chooses.

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“Of course the Zionist regime, with this action, tried to take revenge on the people of Iran for their patience and wise attitude regarding the lifting of sanctions.”

AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi said “this incident was certainly sabotage”, state news agency IRNA reported.

In a separate report, Fars news agency quoted Salehi as saying “the damaged centrifuges will be replaced with even more powerful” ones.

In a related incident, AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi had an accident Sunday while inspecting the site when he “fell from a few meters and suffered light fractures on his feet and head”, IRNA reported.

Kamalvandi gave a video interview from his hospital bed Monday to the Tasnim news agency in which he voiced confidence that after the “small explosion… they can quickly repair the damaged areas”.

– Avoiding ‘trap’ –
Tehran has blamed Israel for previous attacks on its nuclear facilities and experts — including the killing last November of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Natanz was the site of a previous incident in July, during which a building was damaged, and some Iranian media also blamed Israel.

Israel and Iran have long fought a shadow war, with Israel often striking Iran-allied forces in war-torn Syria. And since March, both countries have accused each other of a number of maritime attacks.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran would not allow the Natanz attack to affect the Vienna talks. Iran must avoid “falling in the trap” set by Israel, he told parliamentarians.

Russia said it was closely following what it called a “serious incident” and “if it is confirmed that someone’s malicious actions are behind this incident, then such intent deserves strong condemnation”.

Germany, a partner to the nuclear accord, warned that the “development in Natanz” was “not a positive contribution” to the negotiations.

Qatar denounced “a dangerous act of sabotage that would increase tension and negatively affect the security and stability of the region”.

The European Union said it “rejects any attempts” to undermine the Vienna talks and stressed the “need to clarify the facts” over the incident.

Meanwhile, the EU on Monday added eight Iranian security officials, including the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, and three notorious prisons to a sanctions blacklist over a 2019 protest crackdown in the Islamic republic.

Iran responded by declaring it would cease all talks with the bloc on human rights and all “cooperation resulting from these talks… especially in (the fields of) terrorism, drugs and refugees”.

AFP

Nine Iran-Backed Fighters Killed In 2nd Syria Raid In 24 Hours

File: Syrian army units advance in the town of al-Eis in south Aleppo province on February 9, 2020, following battles with rebels and jihadists. Al-Eis, which overlooks the M5, was on a front that saw fierce fighting between the regime and its opponents in 2016.

 

Air strikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria killed nine fighters on Sunday in the second such raid in 24 hours, a war monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel was “likely responsible” for the strikes near the Iraqi border.

They came hours after a similar raid killed six other Tehran-backed fighters, raising the total toll to 15 killed in 24 hours, according to the monitor.

The fighters killed in the early Sunday raids were mostly Iraqi nationals, according to Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.

There was no official comment from Israel.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.

It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar al-Assad is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.

On Saturday, air strikes also blamed on Israel hit positions belonging to regime forces and Iran-backed militias near the border with Iraq, the Observatory said.

Four Syrian nationals were among the six fighters killed in that attack, the monitor added.

Saturday’s raids came only days after Israeli strikes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and the southern province of Suweida killed seven fighters, including two Syrian soldiers, according to the Observatory.

The uptick in attacks has prompted concern among Iran-backed forces in east Syria that Israeli agents may be among their ranks, the monitor said.

These forces have arrested four people on suspicion of providing intelligence to Israel, the war monitor reported on Sunday, shortly before the latest raids.

The war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s pre-war population since 2011.

AFP