LATEST: “Happy in Tehran” Defendants Get Suspended Prison Terms and Lashes

Preparing for Friday’s first plenary session in the renewed nuclear talks in New York, Iran’s negotiators had bilateral discussions with Russian and American delegations yesterday.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi spoke for two hours with Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov, and they then met Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.

No details were given of the discussions, which followed an introductory session on Wednesday between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers.

The two sides are seeking a comprehensive agreement before the expiry of interim arrangements on November 24.

Key issues include the level and number of Iranian centrifuges for uranium enrichment, inspections and supervision of Iranian nuclear facilities, and the lifting of US-led sanctions on Tehran.

“Happy in Tehran” Defendants Get Suspended Prison Terms and Lashes

The lawyers for seven Iranians involved in a celebratory video with the Pharrel Williams song “Happy” have been sentenced to prison terms and lashes, but these have been suspended on condition of three years of good behavior.

One defendant, Reyhaneh Taravati, was sentenced to one year in prison, while the others were given six months in prison and 91 lashes.

The group was arrested in May after posting the video, “Happy in Tehran”, one of a series of videos showing people around the world dancing and celebrating their lives to Williams’ hit single.

Iran: Arrested — The Crime? Dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” on YouTube

Deputy Foreign Minister: US Policy Towards Islamic State “Dishonest” in Iraq and Syria

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian continued the Iranian regime’s campaign against US intervention in Iraq on Thursday, linking it to Tehran’s position on the Syrian crisis.

Despite escalating US operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and authorization of $500 million to bolster Syrian insurgents against the jihadists, Amir Abollahian declared, “The new US policy on the ground toward the Islamic State is still dishonest.”

He added, “They [the Americans] want to play with the Islamic State in Iraq, and provide opportunities for the Islamic State in Syria….We never trust the US to spearhead a fight against terrorism.”

Tehran’s worries about US intervention in Iraq and possibly in Syria have been shown this week by high-profile statements to American outlets by President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

See Iran Video: Tehran’s PR War, Part 1 — Forget Nukes. Zarif’s Concern is Iraq
Iran Video: Tehran’s PR War, Part 2 — Rouhani Says US-Led Coalition in Iraq is “Ridiculous”

European Court Strikes Down Sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank

The European Court of Justice has struck down the European Union’s initial freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Iran.

The court said that the freeze in January 2012 was based on confidential evidence from one unidentified member state, against which Tehran could not mount a defence: “The reasons relied on are so vague and lacking in detail that the only possible response was in the form of a general denial. Those reasons therefore do not comply with the requirements of the case-law.”

The European Council of the EU has just over two months to appeal the ruling.

EU officials said the lifting of the freeze will have “no practical consequences” because more extensive sanctions — many of them imposed in July 2012 — remain in force.