US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 January 2018

US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

JEDDAH/WASHINGTON: Anti-regime protests continued in Iran on Tuesday for the sixth consecutive day, as the US piled pressure on Tehran by calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “The UN must speak out in the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
The Donald Trump administration is also considering slapping sanctions on individuals who are behind the crackdown on Iranian protesters.
In an interview with the state-backed broadcaster VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek, said Washington was mulling targeted sanctions among a package of measures, which includes working with global partners to censure Tehran.
“From our part, we will hold accountable those people or entities who are committing violence, from the top to the bottom, against the protesters,” Peek said. “That involves examining actions we can take against those individuals, like sanctions and other means.”
Trump tweeted again on Tuesday in support of the demonstrators.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” he said. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”
France expressed concern over the “number of victims and arrests” during the protests. “The right to protest freely is a fundamental right,” said the French Foreign Ministry.
More than 20 people have been killed since the protests began last week, the Associated Press reported. Footage on social media showed riot police out in force in several cities as security forces struggled to contain the unrest.
Tehran’s deputy provincial governor was quoted by Reuters as saying more than 450 protesters had been arrested in the capital over the last three days. Hundreds of others have been detained around the country.
Nine people were killed in Isfahan province during protests on Monday night, including two members of the security forces, state television reported.
As the demonstrations showed no signs of abating, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Musa Ghazanfarabadi, said protesters would face harsh punishments.
Detainees would be put on trial soon, and ringleaders could be charged with “moharebeh” — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty, Ghazanfarabadi said.
Shahriar Kia, a human rights activist and member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, told Arab News that the “inhumane regime,” which has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution, is on the verge of being ousted.
The protests are a result of “over three decades of crackdowns and the plundering by the clerics of the Iranian people’s property and wealth,” he said.
The regime has spent “billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money to spread its fundamentalism and terrorism across the Middle East, and to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad,” Kia added.
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said: “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
Kia said: “I believe strongly that peace and stability in the Middle East and the world will be possible only through regime change in Iran.”


Iran frees Chinese-American scholar for US-held scientist

Updated 07 December 2019

Iran frees Chinese-American scholar for US-held scientist

  • President Donald Trump separately acknowledged Wang was free in a statement from the White House, saying he “is returning to the United States”
  • Tensions have been high between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018

TEHRAN: Iran and the US conducted a prisoner exchange Saturday that saw a detained Princeton graduate student released for an Iranian scientist held by America, marking a potential breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the first announcement on the trade via Twitter. The trade involves graduate student Xiyue Wang and scientist Massoud Soleimani.
“Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly," Zarif wrote. “Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government.”
In his tweet, Zarif confirmed rumors that had been circulating for days that a deal was in the works to free Wang.
President Donald Trump separately acknowledged Wang was free in a statement from the White House, saying he “is returning to the United States.”
“Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016,” Trump said. “We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang’s release with Iran.”
The Swiss Embassy in Tehran looks out for America's interests in the country as the U.S. Embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis.
Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, accompanied the Iranian scientist to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be released. The swap took place in Zurich and Hook and Wang are now en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang will be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook is expected to return to the US from Germany alone, as Wang is expected to be evaluated for several days.
Although Hook was present for the swap, the official said Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien played the lead role in the negotiations dating from his time as the special representative for hostage affairs at the State Department.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency later reported that Soleimani was with Iranian officials in Switzerland. Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours. Zarif later posted pictures of himself on Twitter with Soleimani in front of an Iranian government jet and later with the two talking on board.
Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad. His family and Princeton University strongly denied the claims. Wang was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton.
Hua Qu, the wife of Xiyue Wang, released a statement saying “our family is complete once again.”
“Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”
Princeton University spokesman Ben Chang said the school was aware of Wang's release.
“We are working with the family and government officials to facilitate his return to the United States,” Chang said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court tried Wang. That court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Soleimani — who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine — was arrested by US authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home.
Tensions have been high between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. In the time since, the US has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran's economy. There also have been a series of attacks across the Mideast that the US blames on Iran.
Other Americans held in Iran include the 81-year-old businessman Baquer Namazi who has been held for over two years and diagnosed with epilepsy.
Both Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, also a dual national who has been held for over three years, are serving a 10-year sentence after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power.
An Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Also held is US Navy veteran Michael White.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while saying Wang would soon be able to go home to his family, acknowledged other Americans remain held by Iran.
“The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones,” Pompeo said in a statement.