Regime’s economic worries grow as rial nears 50,000:1 v. US dollar
As Iran’s currency continued its decline to an all-time low, police arrested about 90 unlicensed exchange traders in Tehran on Wednesday.
Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi said the traders were swept up in a 10-minute period.
News of the crackdown helped prevent the Iranian rial from breaking the 50,000:1 mark against the US dollar. It recovered to 48,220:1 by the end of Wednesday.
The rial has lost almost 30% of its value since mid-September, when it was 35,570:1 against the dollar. Last month, it broke the historic low of about 45,000:1 during the Ahmadinejad Administration that left office in 2013.
The devaluation is likely to feed inflation, which is poised to move about 10%. That would undermine a central achievement of the Rouhani Government, which brought the rate down from more than 40% at the end of the Ahmadinejad era.
The decline has been fed by customer demand for dollars, with long queues and even scuffles in Tehran’s central exchange markets, by purchases by speculators
“The detainees, driven by greed, were attempting to disrupt the market and economic order,” police chief Rahimi said “The judicial system should firmly punish them.”
He said more than 10 currency exchanges were shut down, and 16 received official warnings.
Family Disputes Official Account of Environmentalist’s Death in Custody
The family of Dr Kavous Seyed-Emami, the environmentalist whose death in custody was announced last week, have confirmed their rejection of the official claim of suicide.
Authorities declared on Monday that the family of the political prisoner had been shown film confirming that he hanged himself in Tehran’s Evin Prison, and that they considered the case closed.
But on Tuesday, the family’s lawyer and an “informed source” — either one of the family or a friend — said the officials were lying. The relatives, who have been warned by authorities not to speak to the media, had not accepted that the film established suicide.
On Wednesday, the son of the Iranian-Canadian academic, broke the family’s silence with a statement on his personal blog. Ramin Seyed-Emami repeated doubts over the film and said the family will be using “every legal channel” to launch an independent investigation: “Our family’s wish, first and foremost, is to know why my father was arrested, the details of his interrogation, and to see any files associated with this case.”
Seven other environmentalists of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, where Seyed-Emami was the Managing Director, are still detained. Regime officials have put out a series of assertions to justify the imprisonment, ranging from contact with the CIA and Israel’s Mossad to the supposed use by “Western spies” of lizards attracting “atomic waves” to gather information on Iran’s nuclear facilities.