Iran fires minister as sanctions start to bite

Rabiei was impeached on Wednesday after months of mounting anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis which has deepened with the return of US sanctions. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2018

Iran fires minister as sanctions start to bite

  • Rouhani ally pays price for economic meltdown
  • A total of 129 members of parliament voted that Rabiei be impeached and removed from office

LONDON: Iran’s labor minister was fired on Wednesday as the fall-out grew over the country’s economic meltdown in the face of new US sanctions. 

Ali Rabiei, a close political ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost a parliamentary motion calling for his removal from office by 129 votes to 111. 

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment, a plunging rial that has lost half its value since April, and a series of nationwide protests against government corruption, economic mismanagement and the squandering of national resources on military intervention in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Analysts doubt whether Rouhani can respond effectively, given his failure to address long-standing economic problems. “The economic section of Rouhani’s team is the weakest part of the government. Everyone knows this, but he never changed his direction because they are his allies,” said Mohammed Reza Behzadian, a former head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.

Protests began last December, spreading to more than 80 cities and towns and resulting in 25 deaths. Sporadic demonstrations led by truck drivers, farmers and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar have continued regularly since then and have resulted in violent confrontations with security forces.

They have intensified in the past week, with a fresh wave of demonstrations in cities including Isfahan, Karaj, Rasht and Tehran, resulting in what Amnesty International described as a “wave of mass arrests.”

Amnesty called on Tehran on Wednesday to release peaceful protesters and to conduct a “prompt, impartial and independent” investigation into the killing of a protester in Karaj, northwest of Tehran, on Aug. 3.

“Amnesty International is also urging the authorities to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment and to reveal the fate and whereabouts of dozens of detainees whose families have not heard from them since their arrests,” the rights group said.

“Among those detained and at risk of torture and other ill-treatment is human rights defender Nader Afshari, who was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials on Aug. 1, 2018, in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran, and whose whereabouts are unknown as he is being held in a secret detention facility.

“Since July 31, 2018, thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice their grievances over increasing economic hardship in Iran caused in part by high inflation and the steep devaluation of the rial currency.

“According to reports from journalists and human rights activists inside Iran, as well as independent news groups outside the country, security forces have detained scores of people in jails and secret detention facilities notorious for torture and other ill-treatment over the past week, denying many of them access to their families and lawyers.”

Brother of Palestinian teen Tamimi sentenced for stone-throwing

Updated 21 min 50 sec ago

Brother of Palestinian teen Tamimi sentenced for stone-throwing

  • Ahed Tamimi was teenage girl who became an icon of the Palestinian cause when she was arrested for slapping a soldier
  • Waed had already received a suspended sentence for stoning Israeli security forces in 2016

JERUSALEM: The brother of a teenager who became a symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after slapping two soldiers has been sentenced to jail for throwing stones at a police officer, the army said Tuesday.
Waed Tamimi, the brother of Ahed Tamimi, confessed to his role in a March 2017 “violent riot” in which an Israeli police officer was wounded by stones thrown by Palestinians at his vehicle, according to a military court ruling from Monday.
Since he had already received a suspended sentence for stoning Israeli security forces in 2016, he was handed a 14-month sentence for the 2017 incident as part of a plea bargain, the court document said.
Asked by the court if he had anything to say, the 22-year-old said: “I have nothing to add. There will be no third time,” according to the ruling, which was published by the army on Tuesday.
The incident took place in Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, where the Tamimi family lives.
Tamimi’s sister, Ahed, was released from prison last month after an eight-month sentence for hitting and kicking two Israeli soldiers in front of her house in the occupied West Bank.
In an interview the day after her release, the now 17-year-old told AFP that she understood she had become a “symbol” of the Palestinian cause.
Video of that incident went viral, leading to praise and support from Palestinians but scorn from Israelis who accused her activist family of using her in staged provocations.
Rights groups harshly criticized Israel for the length of Ahed Tamimi’s sentence.