PHOTO: Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Rouhani at the first meeting of the Assembly of Experts since February 26 elections
Continuing the centrist challenge to other factions within Iran’s regime after February 26 elections, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has criticized the Guardian Council, the body which disqualified thousands of candidates.
Rafsanjani said on Tuesday that the bans by the Council — appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary — were “unconvincing for the majority of people” and continued:
We have seen just how these people responded to the Guardian Council….The people have proven with their votes that they have avoided extremism and want moderation in all aspects of politics, culture, and the economy.
Despite the Council’s disqualifications — including of all but 90 reformists standing for Parliament — a centrist-reformist List of Hope won significant victories in the contests for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts, the clerics who choose the Supreme Leader.
The centrist-reformist bloc won a large minority of seats, including all 30 Parliamentary contests in Tehran. Conservatives, who have dominated in Iran for more than a decade, will have to find a majority from independents and the outcome of almost 70 run-off votes in April.
The outcome has bolstered the centrists in regime in-fighting. President Rouhani, who has long opposed the Guardian Council’s vetting powers, turned to the judiciary on Monday when he defied a media ban on images and quotes of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
Rouhani called Khatami “my brother” and, to loud chant of Khatami’s name by a crowd in Yazd, declared:
[Iran] will never forget its servants….No one can erase the names and greatness of those who have served the people….
It is a lie to say that [coverage of Khatami] is forbidden.
In another intervention on Tuesday, Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the Islamic Republic’s founder, praised the election results in a meeting with political activists at the University of Tehran.
Khomeini was blocked by the Guardian Council from standing for the Assembly of Experts because he is seen as close to Rouhani and Rafsanjani. He mentioned the ban in his talk, “Whether people like me participated is not important… We must not forget the ultimate cause.”
The Council had hoped to prevent Rafsanjani from regaining the chair of the Assembly, which he led from 2007 to 2011. However, the defeat of leading conservatives in the vote — including the current chair, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi — has revived Rafsanjani’s prospects.
The vote for the chair will be held on May 24.
(hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)
15-Year Sentence of Student Activist Upheld
An appeals court has upheld the 15-year prison sentence of student activist Arash Sadeghi for collusion against national security, propaganda against the state, spreading lies in cyberspace, and insulting the Founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini].”
Sadeghi’s lawyer, Amir Raeesian — who was blocked from attending the opening session of the trial — was only able to see a portion of the case file just before the appeals court hearing.
Sadeghi’s wife, accountant Golrokh Iraee, has also been sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the sacred”.
Revolutionary Guards Announce Firing of 2 More Missiles
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have announced the test-firing of two more ballistic missiles on Wednesday.
The Guards said the Qadr-H missiles, tested amid large-scale drills, were launched from the East Alborz heights in northern Iran and could hit targets 1,400 km (870 miles) away in the southeast of the country.
The IRGC first displayed the Qadr-H missile in military parades in September 2013.
The Guards have proclaimed the firing of several missiles during this week’s drills, stirring political tension with Western countries who have warned that the tests violate a UN resolution.
State TV coverage of today’s tests: