Iran’s ex-intelligence minister slams handling of prison death

Kavous Seyed Emami
Updated 25 February 2018
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Iran’s ex-intelligence minister slams handling of prison death

TEHRAN: An ex-intelligence minister in Iran on Sunday criticized the handling of an environmentalist’s death in prison, saying the public would not believe he was a spy unless the case was handled by a “competent agency.”
Ali Younessi, who was intelligence minister under President Mohammad Khatami between 2000 and 2005, shone a rare light on the turf war between Iran’s multiple security agencies in his interview with the daily Iran newspaper.
He referred to the case of Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, the Iranian-Canadian citizen who founded the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation. He died in prison this month after being arrested along with seven members of his NGO on espionage charges.
“Unfortunately the Intelligence Ministry has no jurisdiction over this case,” said Younessi, who now serves as an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani on minority religious affairs.
“I believe the case should be given to the Intelligence Ministry ... Given the events that have occurred, if a competent and legal agency does not intervene and doesn’t give its opinion on the dead individual or those under arrest, public opinion will not believe they are spies even if they are convicted.”
The authorities say Emami committed suicide, but the family have questioned the verdict and say they were threatened by security forces.
Younessi did not name the agency running the case, but the Revolutionary Guards run a powerful intelligence service that is separate from the Intelligence Ministry.
Younessi also gave details of the infamous case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died from head injuries after being arrested for taking photos outside Evin prison in 2003.
“The prosecutor at the time insisted she was a spy,” he said, referring to the notorious Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who was last year jailed for his part in another custodial death during protests in 2009.
“We sent two counter-espionage experts from the ministry to investigate this woman in a hotel. After the interview, the two experts concluded that from a technical and scientific standpoint, Zahra Kazemi was not a spy,” said Younessi.
But Mortazavi refused to listen to their verdict, he said, and handed the case back to the police.
In Younessi’s version of events, Kazemi, who was 54, died from a brain haemorrhage caused at the moment of her arrest.
She “was beaten because she refused to hand over her items and her head hit a concrete road divider, which caused a haemorrhage,” he said.
That goes against statement from the government at the time, which said Kazemi was violently beaten in prison. The judiciary initially claimed she died of a stroke and only later that she was injured in a fall.


Algeria goes offline to stop students cheating

Updated 20 June 2018
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Algeria goes offline to stop students cheating

ALGIERS: Algeria went offline on Wednesday for the start of high school diploma exams, the first in a series of Internet blackouts to stop students cheating.
Mobile and fixed Internet lines were cut across the country for a total of two hours, to coincide with the start of two separate school tests, AFP journalists in Algiers said.
A third hour-long Internet shutdown was planned for later on Wednesday, according to a schedule issued by public operator Algerie Telecom.
Internet services were cut “in compliance with instructions from the government, aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly,” Algerie Telecom said.
The pre-planned blackouts are due to continue for the whole period of exams, until Monday, to combat cheating among more than 700,000 students.
Ali Kahlane, president of telecoms association AOTA, said operators were required to conform to the government’s demands.
The 2016 exam season was marred by widespread cheating, with exam questions published on social media before or at the start of the test.
Last year, authorities requested operators shut down access to social media, but the move did not entirely end the problem.
Latecomers were banned from taking the exam and instead had to attend a specially organized test.
Electronics with Internet access, such as mobile phones and tablets, were this year banned from Algeria’s more than 2,000 exam centers.
Metal detectors have meanwhile been set up at the entrance to the centers, Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit said.
In a further move to prevent questions being leaked, the minister said mobile phone jammers and surveillance cameras had been installed in locations where the exam papers are printed.