Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest

File photo of Iran’s ex president Mahmud Ahmadinejad President. (Reuters)
Updated 28 March 2018
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Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest

TEHRAN: Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his ally Hamid Baghaie was on hunger strike and in deteriorating health after being imprisoned on what he said were politically motivated charges.
Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, made the claims in a letter to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, published on the Dolatebahar website run by his supporters.
It is the latest volley in a bitter feud with his former colleagues in the Iranian establishment — particularly the conservative-dominated judiciary — which has led him to demand wide-ranging reforms, including fully free elections.
“The judicial apparatus, without any documents or proof or legal citation... under the cover of financial accusations and in a closed trial — has condemned (Baghaie) to the severest possible punishment,” Ahmadinejad wrote in his latest letter.
Baghaie, who served as his vice president, was jailed this month for 15 years for embezzling 3,766,000 euros and $590,000.
Prosecutors said the cash was given to him by General Ghasem Soleimani, feted head of the external operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards, the Qods Force, and earmarked for “affairs to do with African countries.”
“Mr Baghaie has never accepted these accusations and he’s been on hunger strike for 14 days in protest at this injustice by the judicial apparatus,” Ahmadinejad said in the letter.
“It is heard that his physical situation is deteriorating. He’s been kept in solitary confinement since the first day of his arrest,” Ahmadinejad added, calling on Khamenei to step in to avoid a “big catastrophe and irreparable damage.”
In an earlier report on the Dolatebahar website, Baghaie was quoted as saying: “Suppose this impossible, fabricated story is true — should I be blamed, or should it be General Ghasem Soleimani as the authorized official in the Qods Force who has delivered the said foreign currency?“


Ahmadinejad and Baghaei claim no proof of the alleged transactions was presented at the trial in December.
Another of their associates — Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff Rahim Mashaie — was arrested this month after burning a copy of Baghaei’s verdict outside the British embassy.
A populist with close ties to the hard-line religious elite and Revolutionary Guards during his time in office, Ahmadinejad’s unruly style saw him fall out with the establishment and clash with Khamenei.
He has become a growing thorn in their side in recent years. Both he and Baghaie were barred from standing in last year’s presidential election by the Guardian Council, which vets candidates.
In another letter to Khamenei last month, Ahmadinejad called for “the immediate holding of free presidential and parliamentary elections — of course without their being engineered by the Guardian Council and without interference by military or security bodies so that people have a free choice.”
Ahmadinejad remains a hate figure for many reformists, who associate him with the bloody crackdown on mass protests in 2009 and 2010 that followed his contested re-election.
However, he remains popular particularly among poorer segments of society who recall the large-scale welfare schemes he implemented during his presidency.


Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

Updated 52 min 6 sec ago
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Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

  • EU foreign ministers said they are suspending talks with Turkey over air transport agreement
  • They backed EU’s proposal to decrease financial assistance to Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday rejected as “worthless” an initial set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.
EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.
They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.
Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to “appease” Cyprus and were of “no importance.”
“The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues,” he said. “They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that.”
“They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied,” he said. “They were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek Cypriots and Greece.”
Cavusoglu added: “If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will with send a fourth.”
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias.”
It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometers off the island’s west coast.