Leaders of Iran

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Tehran mayor Karbaschi pardoned: BBC News

BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | Tehran mayor pardoned: "Tehran mayor pardoned

Ex-Mayor Karbaschi Karbaschi (right) meets fellow reformer Abdullah Nouri

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has given an amnesty to the jailed reformist former mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi.
Tehran radio said the move, which may have important political implications, was requested by the head of the judiciary.

Mr Karbaschi, 44, an ally of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, had been on prison leave since Saturday, and will not have to return.

Karbaschi's legal saga
April 98: Arrested on corruption charges
July 1998: Jailed for five years
December 1998: Sentence reduced to two years
May 1999: Begins jail sentence
25 January 2000: Pardoned by Ayatollah Khamenei
The former mayor, who took office in 1989, was convicted on embezzlement charges and sentenced in July 1998 to five years in prison, later reduced to two years on appeal. He was also barred from any public function.
Mr Karbaschi, who is hated by Iran's conservatives, insists his conviction was politically motivated.

His jail term began in May last year, following a trial that was widely seen as a witch hunt by conservatives trying to settle scores with the reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The mayor's support helped the president win election in 1997.

Mr Karbaschi, whose trial gripped the nation, had raised the possibility on Monday that he might not be required to return to jail when a period of prison leave ends later this week.

"Everything is possible," he told the French news agency AFP.

Tactical move by conservatives?

The pardon is seen by some analysts as part of a campaign by conservative clerics, who are led by Ayatollah Khamenei, to project a more moderate image ahead of parliamentary elections on 18 February.

A hardline vetting body has disqualified many key reformists from running in the polls, but the conservatives are known to be still worried about the outcome of the election.

It has been reported that former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had succeeded in securing an amnesty for Mr Karbaschi from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to mark the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on 11 February.

The former mayor leaves prison on a short term release last Saturday

Mr Karbaschi is closely associated with Mr Rafsanjani's faction, the so-called Servants of Construction.

And Mr Rafsanjani is running as a candidate in next month's parliamentary elections, at the head of the conservatives' list.

A 10-year ban on Mr Karbaschi taking part in any political activity, imposed with his original prison sentence, has not been lifted, although he could still benefit Mr Rafsanjani's own campaign."

TIME: Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi Sentanced

TIME: World Watch: "TEHRAN

Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami suffered a political blow when Iranian courts convicted the Tehran mayor--a key supporter--of embezzlement. The long-serving mayor, Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, was sentenced to five years in prison and was barred from office until 2018. A sentence of 60 lashes was suspended out of regard for his social standing, the court said. Khatami's supporters say the real target of the trial was the President and his campaign to liberalize Iranian society 20 years after the country's Islamic revolution. In another victory for hard-liners, a court ordered the pro-reform newspaper Jameeah to cease publication."

2nd of Khordad movement begins to fracture.

RFE/RL Iran Report: "CHANGES IN LEGISLATURE COULD AFFECT EXECUTIVE'S GOALS. The election of a new parliamentary presidium on 12 June could be an indication of the dynamics of Iran's very active and competitive factional politics. The presidential cabinet has its own legislative objectives regardless of party politics and changes in the parliament, but these political developments are likely to affect the executive branch's efforts.

Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi was re-elected as speaker of parliament on 12 June, according to IRNA, with 221 votes in his favor and 28 abstentions. He ran unopposed. Tehran representative Behzad Nabavi received 152 votes to become the first deputy speaker and Tehran's Mohammad Reza Khatami was elected as the second deputy speaker. In the first election to the legislature's presidium in June 2001, Khatami was chosen as the first deputy speaker, while Mohsen Armin of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO) was chosen as second deputy speaker. Behzad Nabavi is associated with the MIRO, too, while Khatami is with the Islamic Iran Participation Party (IIPP). This development could indicate the MIRO's ascendancy in the reformist 2nd of Khordad movement, or the movement's radicalization. Other 2nd of Khordad members are the Executives of Construction Party, the Islamic Iran Solidarity Party, and the Militant Clerics Society.

Before this presidium election took place, Mohammad Reza Khatami discussed the factional competition in an interview with the 29 May "Iran." Khatami said that the 2nd of Khordad (the date of Khatami's 1997 election) movement is social in nature, rather than political. There is a danger that political movements can become either extremist or slow-paced, he continued, whereas social movements always remain moderate. Khatami conceded that, from a political perspective, the 2nd of Khordad movement could be criticized for its slow pace. Khatami also conceded that the slow pace of reform frustrates young people, but there are disagreements about the methods for achieving reform.

Meanwhile, there are recent rumors that the Executives of Construction Party (ECP) will part ways with the 2nd of Khordad movement. This rumor gained currency when Mohammad Hashemi-Rafsanjani criticized a number of political parties (see also the 27 May 2002 "RFE/RL Iran Report"). According to a report in the 2 June "Aftab-i Yazd," Hashemi said that the reformists and conservatives are at a deadlock and only the ECP can "manage the present disorder and chaos." But as the daily pointed out, even within the ECP there is a variety of political viewpoints.

Apparently referring to Hashemi's comments, ECP member and former Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani said in the 9 June "Entekhab" that the 2nd of Khordad front should not succumb to the "amateurishness" of some of its members. He stressed that the 2nd of Khordad is a front, not a party, and its members must "understand that if they stick together, they will be able to organize the reform movement and contribute to its advancement." Yet a third ECP member, Golpayegan parliamentary representative Morteza Shayesteh, accused the IIPP of behaving autocratically and trying to gain more power, and he warned that the 2nd of Khordad faction will disintegrate if this continues.

Asked if comments like his will undermine 2nd of Khordad's "cohesion and uniformity," Shayesteh was dismissive. "What cohesion and uniformity?! This faction no longer has the necessary cohesion and uniformity. There are many disputes, and all of those disputes have been generated as a result of the dissatisfaction of member factions with the autocratic behavior of a certain faction [a reference to the IIPP]," he said. To restore unity, Shayesteh suggested that "those gentlemen moderate their quest for monopoly to some extent.... Otherwise, the 2nd of Khordad faction will break up."

Tehran representative Jamileh Kadivar said in the 22 May "Noruz" that the political factions are trying to attract supporters -- even members of the banned Liberation Movement of Iran (a.k.a. Freedom Movement). Indeed, LMI leader Ebrahim Yazdi on 11 June met with Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karrubi. After their meeting, Yazdi stated that they agreed on the need for solidarity among the factions, IRNA reported, and this solidarity should be promoted through dialogue. Yazdi said that negotiation is the only way out of the current political deadlock.

Meanwhile, President Mohammad Khatami's cabinet has its own legislative plans. Some members of Khatami's cabinet said on the sidelines of a joint session with the legislature that the government is formulating some of its programs and bills, "Iran" reported on 1 June. Education and Training Minister Morteza Haji said a bill regarding the specialization of teachers is under consideration, and there is another bill regarding the provision of facilities for nonprofit schools. Industries and Mines Minister Ishaq Jahangiri described a bill on renovating industries and another that could attract investment by amending the laws on taxes. Jahangiri also described laws that would affect investment in the maritime sector, especially shipbuilding. Justice Minister Mohammad Ismail Shushtari mentioned a law that would give equal blood money (diyeh) whether or not the victim of crime is a Muslim (currently, more money must be paid for killing or injuring a Muslim than for killing or injuring a minority member). Shushtari also described steps to speed up the courts, which currently have major backlogs.

These examples of regulations affecting education, industry, and religious law demonstrate the potential for controversy. The greater the factionalism and fractiousness in the parliament, the more difficulty the president and his cabinet will have in pursuing their objectives. (Bill Samii)"