Iranian opposition leader ends hunger strike, wants public trial

This file photo taken on June 12, 2009, shows Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi casting his ballot at a polling station in Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2017
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Iranian opposition leader ends hunger strike, wants public trial

ANKARA: Mehdi Karroubi, an elderly Iranian opposition leader under house arrest since 2011, was hospitalized on Thursday after starting a hunger strike to support his demand for a public trial, his official website reported.
Opposition leaders Karroubi, Mirhossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been confined to their homes for six-and-a-half years after calling for rallies in solidarity with pro-democracy uprisings then shaking some Arab countries.
They have never been put on trial or publicly charged. Both Karroubi, 80, and Mousavi, 75, suffer from ailments partly associated with their age. Karroubi has been hospitalized twice in recent weeks and underwent heart surgery.
Karroubi’s son, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, confirmed the Sahamnews website report on his Twitter account: “At 1 a.m. Thursday father was sent to hospital due to the hunger strike. Pray a lot.”
Sahamnews quoted the Shiite cleric’s wife, Fatemeh Karroubi, as saying that he would refuse “to eat or drink until his demands are met.”
Karroubi and Mousavi ran in what became a disputed 2009 election that returned hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and triggered mass protests ultimately crushed by the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia.
Dozens of political activists, lawmakers, journalists and artists have urged pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani to fulfill his campaign promises of getting the opposition leaders freed, but he has been blocked by security and judiciary services that answer only to hard-line Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “He does not expect a fair trial but wants it to be public and would respect the verdict,” Karroubi’s wife told Sahamnews on Wednesday.
Karroubi, a former Parliament speaker, has also asked for security forces to leave his house, which is under round-the-clock surveillance by the Revolutionary Guards.
“He wants the security guards to leave the premises of his house,” Karroubi’s wife told Sahamnews on Wednesday.
“Such a level of surveillance has never been seen before or after the (1979 Islamic) revolution ... He wants the authorities to announce when they will hold a public trial.”
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on called on Wednesday for the immediate release of “ailing political leaders.”
“Karroubi’s life is in danger and the state, which has detained him without trial, is responsible for whatever happens to him while he is in its custody,” CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said.


Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

Updated 54 min 1 sec ago
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Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities have removed nearly 30 kilometers of concrete blast walls across Baghdad in the last six months, mostly around the capital’s high-security Green Zone, a senior official told AFP.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, T-walls — thick barriers about six meters tall and one meter wide — have surrounded potential targets of car bombs or other attacks.
When premier Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power last year, he promised to remove barriers, checkpoints and other security measures to make Baghdad easier to navigate.
“Over the last six months, we removed 18,000 T-walls in Baghdad, including 14,000 in the Green Zone alone,” said Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bayati, the PM’s top military adviser.
Hundreds of the security checkpoints that contributed to Baghdad’s notorious traffic jams have also been removed.
And according to the Baghdad municipality, 600 streets that had been closed off to public access have been opened in the last six months.
Among them are key routes crossing through Baghdad’s Green Zone, the enclave where government buildings, UN agencies and embassies including the US and UK missions are based.
It was long inaccessible to most Iraqis until an order from Abdel Mahdi last year, and families can now be seen picking their way across its manicured parks for sunset pictures.
Iraq is living a rare period of calm after consecutive decades of violence, which for Baghdad peaked during the sectarian battles from 2006 to 2008.
It was followed, in 2014, by Daesh’s sweep across a third of the country and a three-year battle to oust the militants from their urban strongholds.
The group still wages hit-and-run attacks against Iraqi security forces and government targets, and Baghdad’s authorities are on high alert.
Thousands of the removed T-walls have been placed on Baghdad’s outskirts to prevent infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells, according to Bayati.