Canadian journalist detained in Iran


A Canadian journalist has been detained in Iran, as authorities extended their crackdown on those protesting last week’s disputed election to include those covering the demonstrations.

Newsweek magazine said in a statement its correspondent Mazier Bahari, a Canadian citizen, was detained Sunday morning and has not been heard from since.

The magazine defended its coverage as “fair and nuanced” and is calling for his release. More than 20 journalists have been detained in Iran over the last week.

Bahari came to Canada from Iran in 1988 as a political refugee. He has made a number of documentary films, several of them about Iran.

Iranian state television has raised the death toll from anti-government demonstrations to at least 17 and reported Sunday that the daughter of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, along with four other family members, has been arrested for participating in the protests.

According to the report, authorities made the arrests late Saturday, but a report Sunday by the English-language Press TV said the four unidentified family members have been released.

Prior to reporting news of the arrests, state media reported early Sunday that at least 10 people died during Saturday’s clashes between supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and members of the pro-government Basij militia.

In contrast Press TV put the death toll at 13, while CNN put the number at 19.

It’s unclear how many have died since the protests began a week ago, with some unconfirmed estimates putting the toll as high as 150.

Prior to news of Saturday’s arrests, state television had broadcast pictures of the 46-year-old Faezeh Hashemi, who is Rafsanjani’s eldest daughter, speaking to supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Rafsanjani, 75, is a powerful man in Iran. He is head of the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to remove the country’s supreme leader. He also heads the Expediency Council, which mediates disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, the unelected body that can veto legislation.

Rafsanjani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the victor in the June 8 national elections by a landslide despite predictions of a close race against Mousavi, have traded insults in recent weeks.

But as late as Friday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Rafsanjani a strong and effective politician and praised him as one of the leaders of the Iranian revolution.

For more than a week now, protesters, supporters of Mousavi who allege the elections were rigged in favour of Ahmadinejad, have taken to the streets every evening since the election, clashing with militia members and riot police.

State media said that 100 people were injured on Saturday. The deputy chief of police, who was quoted in the story, said officers did not use live ammunition against the crowds who, according to the report, set fire to gas stations and attacked a military post.

The New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said dozens of demonstrators who were brought to local hospitals for treatment were subsequently arrested by security forces.

The organization also said that doctors were under orders to tell authorities about any patients they treated who were injured during the protests.

“The arrest of citizens seeking care for wounds suffered at the hands of security forces when they attempted to exercise rights guaranteed under their own constitution and international law is deplorable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the campaign, denouncing the alleged arrests as “a sign of profound disrespect by the state for the well-being of its own people.”

“The government of Iran should be ashamed of itself. Right now, in front of the whole world, it is showing its violent actions,” he said.

Reporters arrested

Reporters Without Borders said that, over the past week, 23 journalists were arrested. On Sunday, the British Broadcasting Corporation announced that Jon Leyne, its Tehran-based correspondent, was told to leave the country.

George McLeod, a Canadian freelance journalist who is still in Tehran, said Sunday that the streets of Tehran have so far been free of protests, he expects that to change by evening.

“It’s calm right now as far as I can see, but we have to remember that the protests haven’t been starting until about 5 o’clock in the evening,” McLeod told CTV News Channel. “That’s because the demonstrators try to mix in with the rush hour traffic before coming out. So I would say this is the normal scenario we’ve seen before protests have broken out.”

McLeod said he managed to leave his hotel for about an hour to survey the streets of Tehran since Saturday’s intense fighting.

“There was an incredible amount of rioting in the south of the city (on Saturday night),” McLeod said. “I was driving around for about an hour and it was almost like a fireball had hit the streets. There was ash everywhere, traffic signs had been literally heaved out of the ground, bus shelters were smashed. And strangely, I’ve never seen this before, but I saw a mosque had been burned and sacked, which I find incredibly strange to have happened in Iran.”

The protests have carried on despite strong warnings from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that the government would crack down on demonstrations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the courage of Iranian citizens for facing danger to bring about change.

“I think something very deep, very fundamental is going on,” Netanyahu said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “There’s an expression of a deep desire within the people of Iran for freedom, certainly for greater freedom.”

Canada denies allegations

Numerous posts on Twitter’s Iranian election page say that dozens of people have been severely beaten and that foreign embassies in Tehran are taking in the wounded.

There were allegations on the web Saturday that the Canadian embassy was denying entry to injured people seeking sanctuary, but the Department of Foreign Affairs said those allegations were false.

“The Embassy was closed Saturday and there were no Canadians at the Embassy when the protests began. Reports that we were providing shelter to Iranian demonstrators are false,” foreign affairs and international trade spokesperson Simone MacAndrew said in a statement to CTV.ca.

“Canada’s Embassy is located in the centre of recent demonstrations. Due to the tense security in Tehran this week, the Embassy has been closing early so that staff can return home safely before the public and democratic demonstrations begin.”

Foreign Affairs called the violent crackdown by authorities “wholly unacceptable.”

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff issued a statement late Saturday night saying, “Canada should join other countries in keeping our embassy open for the humanitarian needs of the people of Iran.”

Foreign Affairs says that Canadian embassies do not normally offer asylum to individuals abroad but will provide temporary safe haven if there is an immediate threat or injury.

AP.org

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