Monday, July 25, 2005

The Observer | International | Iran militant is now hero of US right

The Observer | International | Iran militant is now hero of US right: "Iran militant is now hero of US right

Neo-cons rally to the cause of jailed ex-Revolutionary Guard
Paul Harris, New York
Sunday July 24, 2005
The Observer
Akbar Ganji was once a loyal Revolutionary Guard and veteran of the religious revolt that brought clerical rule to Iran. He became an operative for the country's intelligence services and spied on enemies of the regime.
But now Ganji has become the Republican Party's darling and a hero to its neo-conservative wing who are pressing for a hardline US policy on Iran. President George Bush has spoken glowingly of Ganji, who has become a vocal critic of Iran's ruling mullahs and the country's leading political dissident. 'His calls for freedom deserve to be heard. His valiant efforts should not go in vain,' Bush said.

It is a remarkable turnaround. Now a reform-minded journalist who has turned his back on religious rule, Ganji is serving a jail sentence in Tehran after publishing a book that chronicled his government's complicity in a series of killings of journalists and dissidents.

He is also on a hunger strike that has lasted more than a month and, according to some reports, left him near death. Ganji's case has been taken up enthusiastically by leading conservatives in America and followed almost daily in such right-wing media outlets as the New York Sun and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Senator Rick Santorum, the leading 2008 presidential hopeful from the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, and several other senators have joined in demanding that Ganji should be released.

Some critics believe that Ganji's popularity has little to do with the merits of his case and much to do with pressuring Iran. Santorum has this year introduced legislation in the Senate that pushes for regime change in Iran. 'The bill also notes the futility of working with the Iranian government,' he said. The move is similar to those used to promote a policy of 'regime change' in Iraq. It would allow the US government to support foreign and domestic groups that are opposed to the Iranian government.

But whatever the Americans' motivation, Ganji's story is a compelling one. He was jailed in January 2001, after he reported on the 1998 murders of five dissidents by what he said were agents of the Intelligence Ministry under then President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He has continued to write while in jail, his letters smuggled out and published on the internet. In 2002 he wrote a Republican Manifesto which laid out plans for a fully democratic Iran.

He has been on hunger strike since 19 May, except for a 12-day period of leave he was granted ahead of Iran's elections on 17 June. During that time he wrote two letters to all 'free peoples' in the world. He revealed that he has lost more than 40lb on a diet of water and sugar cubes. 'Today my broken face is the true face of the system in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I am now the symbol of justice,' he wrote.

A second letter, dated 10 July, carries a clear warning that Ganji believes he will eventually starve himself to death. 'This candle is about to die out, but this voice will raise louder voices in its wake,' it concluded. Reports from inmates have indicated that his kidneys might be failing and that he has been at times unconscious and taken to the jail's hospital.

Human Rights Watch has appealed for him to receive medical treatment outside the prison. 'The Iranian judiciary's refusal to release Ganji for medical treatment is inhumane. The international community should condemn it,' said Sarah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.

However, attempts to raise Ganji's case at the UN have met with resistance. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office has declined to comment. So far Iran has refused to budge on the issue. Official statements condemned the White House for seeking to intervene in its internal affairs and criticised abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay."

The Observer | International | Santorum Supports Radical Criminals in Iran

The Observer | International | Iran militant is now hero of US right: "He is also on a hunger strike that has lasted more than a month and, according to some reports, left him near death. Ganji's case has been taken up enthusiastically by leading conservatives in America and followed almost daily in such right-wing media outlets as the New York Sun and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Senator Rick Santorum, the leading 2008 presidential hopeful from the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, and several other senators have joined in demanding that Ganji should be released.

Some critics believe that Ganji's popularity has little to do with the merits of his case and much to do with pressuring Iran. Santorum has this year introduced legislation in the Senate that pushes for regime change in Iran. 'The bill also notes the futility of working with the Iranian government,' he said. The move is similar to those used to promote a policy of 'regime change' in Iraq. It would allow the US government to support foreign and domestic groups that are opposed to the Iranian government."