US demands release of Iran political prisoners amid torture reports

Iranian students scuffle with police at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran. Students protested in a third day of demonstrations, videos on social media showed, but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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US demands release of Iran political prisoners amid torture reports

WASHINGTON: The White House on Wednesday demanded that Iran release demonstrators rounded up in countrywide protests, raising pressure on Tehran as US President Donald Trump weighs the future of a key nuclear deal.
“The Trump Administration is deeply concerned by reports that the Iranian regime has imprisoned thousands of Iranian citizens in the past week for engaging in peaceful protests,” the White House said in a statement.
It added that reports of some demonstrators being “tortured or killed... while in detention are even more disturbing,” and slammed Tehran for what it called its “true brutal nature.”
“We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran’s leaders accountable for any violations,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“The United States calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran, including the victims of the most recent crackdown,” the statement read.
Violent unrest fueled by economic grievances erupted in dozens of Iranian cities between December 28 and January 1, leaving at least 21 people dead.
Various figures have come from official sources in Iran about the number of people arrested, with reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi putting the total at 3,700.
Officials have said the majority have since been released, with only the main “instigators” facing trial.
An investigation has been opened into the death in custody of a young Iranian in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, the country’s judiciary said Tuesday, with Sadeghi linking the death to recent protests.
A reluctant Trump is expected on Friday to waive a series of sanctions against Iran, as part of a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.