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May 99, Week 1
|Ex-Iran Mayor Transferred to Prison
|Crowds Gather outside Convicted Iran Mayor's House
|Iranian Hard-Liners Losing Battle Against Reformists
|Irans Starts Producing Local-Design Helicopters
|Iran Bans Women Cyclists in Caspian Seaside Resort
|Iranian President Welcomes Minister's Impeachment Victory
Ex-Iran Mayor Transferred to Prison
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- A former Tehran mayor who ran afoul of hard-line clergy in Iran's political tug-of-war began serving a two-year jail sentence Thursday on corruption charges.
Gholamhossein Karbaschi was taken from his home in Tehran to the Shahid Beheshti Judicial Complex to report to authorities before being sent to jail, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said in a report monitored in Dubai.
The popular Karbaschi is among an emerging class of liberal politicians in Iran who support reformist President Mohammad Khatami's efforts to liberalize Iran and loosen the strict Islamic laws.
Khatami is being opposed at every step by conservative members of the ruling clergy who have targeted vulnerable Khatami supporters like Karbaschi.
The former mayor was accompanied to the judicial complex by several friends, IRNA said. A group of people gathered in front of the building and chanted slogans in his support, it said. Karbaschi was later driven to prison.
IRNA did not name the prison but earlier reports said he would be incarcerated in Evin jail, where he was held between 1975 and 1978 for political dissidence during the rule of the pro-U.S. shah. The shah was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution that installed the Shiite clergy's rule.
As part of the clerical rule, Karbaschi served as Tehran's mayor from 1990 until his arrest in April 1998 on charges of embezzling state funds.
While in office, Karbaschi won widespread popularity for improving public services and the appearance of the capital city of 8 million people. He denies stealing public money.
Karbaschi's supporters allege that his arrest -- and the subsequent trial leading to his conviction -- were the result of political settling of scores: Karbaschi used the resources at his disposal to run Khatami's successful presidential campaign in 1997 against a conservative candidate.
Karbaschi had been out on bail since being convicted last July. His original five-year prison sentence was reduced to two years by an appeals court, and the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal last month. He has also been banned from holding public office for 10 years and ordered to pay $533,000 in fines and restitution.
Crowds Gather outside Convicted Iran Mayor's House
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - A small crowd of well-wishers gathered on Thursday outside
the house of Tehran's former mayor, convicted on graft charges and due to begin a
two year prison sentence later in the day, witnesses said.
Dozens of people including reporters waited outside Gholamhossein Karbaschi's house in one of Tehran's affluent northern suburbs, while a key moderate ally, newly-elected council member and former interior minister Abdollah Nouri, arrived to pay his respects, they said.
Karbaschi last week received a court order to turn himself over to the Tehran judiciary on May 6 as part of the procedure for beginning jail terms.
Iran's supreme court rejected an appeal by Karbaschi's lawyers earlier in April against a two-year jail sentence, a fine of more than $500,000 and a 10-year ban on holding public office, meted out by an Iranian court following his conviction on graft charges.
Karbaschi, appointed the capital's mayor by Nouri in 1989, turned the ramshackle and war-hit capital into a network of motorways, parks and high-rise apartment blocks. He also sponsored arts complexes, book stores and the city's first e-mail system.
But his critics said some of the large amounts of cash his projects generated went into his own and his appointees' pockets, while other funds went to back moderate President Mohammad Khatami's election in 1997.
His allies have blasted his trial and conviction as a political revenge by conservatives, angry at his help in getting the reformist Khatami elected.
With legal avenues apparently now at a dead-end, some 70 MPs and a number of senior government officials have appealed to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to grant a pardon.
Iranian Hard-Liners Losing Battle Against Reformists
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The hard-line clergy that has wielded absolute power
in Iran for 20 years is losing a power struggle against reformists fighting for greater
The hard-liners have suffered a string of crushing defeats against supporters of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, a middle-ranking cleric who was elected two years ago. But nearly all their efforts to stall his reforms have backfired.
Khatami is so overwhelmingly popular among Iranians that opposing him can mean political suicide.
One hard-line parliament deputy found angry protesters outside his home after he criticized the president.
Hard-liners suffered an important defeat Saturday when an impeachment bill they sponsored against Khatami's culture minister ended in a vote of confidence for him.
Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani is a staunch ally of Khatami and the driving force behind his reforms. He had angered hard-liners by allowing newspapers and intellectuals to speak out _ a move that led to a barrage of criticism of the hard-liners.
As a result, for the first time since it came to power in the 1979 Islamic revolution, the clergy was made accountable to the people.
After a fiery defense of freedom and tolerance before parliament Saturday, Ataollah Mohajerani defeated the impeachment bill 135 to 121. Mohajerani kept his job because enough independent deputies allied with the hard-liners switched sides.
Mohajerani's victory in the Majlis, or parliament, was a wake-up call for the hard-liners, who until now had held sway over the house.
In June, they impeached the interior minister for allowing political gatherings and relaxing Islamic rules.
Both factions are girding for the next big battle, expected in next year's elections for the Majlis.
In what was seen by both sides as a trial run for the Majlis vote, Khatami's supporters swept the country's first elections for city councils in February.
The unelected hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all matters and has direct control of the Intelligence Ministry, the judiciary, the armed forces, and the broadcast network.
But his influence over these key institutions is eroding.
The intelligence minister was forced to resign in February after disclosures that rogue agents in his ministry killed five Iranian dissidents and intellectuals.
The secretive ministry is being overhauled to make it more open and accountable, Iranian newspapers have reported.
The judiciary has convicted allies of the president on various charges and closed pro-Khatami newspapers, while taking no action against vigilantes who have broken up pro-democracy gatherings and attacked dissidents.
The tenure of the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, ends this year. Khamenei is under tremendous pressure to name a more evenhanded judge to the post.
The radio and television network the hard-liners control has become the butt of jokes among Iranians for its often one-sided coverage of events in Iran. For more impartial news, Iranians turn to the many newspapers that have mushroomed under Culture Minister Mohajerani.
Over the past year, as the hard-liners have grown more desperate, their supporters have physically attacked Khatami's supporters.
Violence is expected to continue, and could increase. The hard-line clergy is fighting for political survival; its supporters believe the fight is between good and evil.
Short of resorting to an army coup, the hard-liners have little chance of standing against the wave of popular support for Khatami. A coup is unlikely, because the Iranian military overwhelmingly supported Khatami in the 1997 vote and has little experience of internal suppression.
The turning point of the 1979 revolution came when the shah's army refused to shoot at demonstrators.
Irans Starts Producing Local-Design Helicopters
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran on Tuesday launched a production line for locally
designed helicopters for both military and civilian purposes, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
It said Defence Minister Vice-Admiral Ali Shamkhani opened the military plant which would produce Shabaviz (Owl) 75 and Shabaviz 2061 helicopters.
In February, Iran displayed prototypes of Shabaviz 75, a light transport helicopter capable of carrying 14 passengers and the 2061 model, a five-seater which officials said was designed for reconnaissance and training missions.
Officials said Shabaviz 75 had a range of 500 km (310 miles) and a peak flying altitude of 12,600 feet (3,800 metres) and could be modified to carry weapons.
Iran has in recent years announced the production of locally designed missiles, a fighter plane, tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
Facing U.S. sanctions and confronted with a Western arms embargo since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Tehran has embarked on a strategy of copying and developing military hardware.
Iran's efforts to achieve self-sufficiency also aim to limit imports and curb outlays of precious hard currency.
The United States has often expressed concern over the possible transfer of military technology to Iran from Russia, China and North Korea. The Islamic republic says its weapons are locally designed and produced.
Iran Bans Women Cyclists in Caspian Seaside Resort
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran has outlawed women cyclists at northern seaside resort
as an affront to Islamic morality, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
The district governor in charge of Ramsar, formerly a plush holiday resort on Iran's northern Caspian coast, said women cyclists would be prosecuted even if they were covered from head to toe as required by Iran's Islamic laws, Kayhan newspaper said.
"Women cyclists cannot protect their chastity even if they are fully covered, so they should avoid this altogether or they will be dealt with," the governor said.
He called on city police to stop offenders.
Female cycling is a controversial issue in Iran. Moderate politicians such as MP Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, have urged women to go out and play sports, including cycling. This has aroused the ire of conservatives who feel this might lead to uncontrolled freedom and promiscuity.
Iranian President Welcomes Minister's Impeachment Victory
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- An impeachment motion against Iran's reformist culture minister has been
rejected -- much to the delight of Iran's prime minister.
The impeachment move was initiated by hard-liners in Iran's ruling clergy, who were outraged by Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani's efforts to give more freedom to newspapers and intellectuals.
The attempted impeachment opened a floodgate of criticism against the conservative clergy, which has held absolute power since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
President Mohammad Khatami thanked Parliament on Sunday for giving Mohajerani a vote of confidence, Iranian television said in a report.
Mohajerani defeated the impeachment motion Saturday 135-121 in secret balloting in Parliament, where hard-liners hold a slight majority. In his defense, Mohajerani made no apologies about his policies and lectured the deputies on the need to allow public freedoms.
Khatami thanked Mohajerani for outlining the government's cultural policies "with decorum, broad mindedness and strong logic," the television said.
Mohajerani "should now continue his work with authority and decisiveness," Khatami was quoted as saying.
Since taking office in 1997, Khatami has moved to loosen the Islamic government's social and political restrictions. He faces an uphill battle, however, with several key institutions still controlled by hard-liners.