Iran Roundup for December 6th thru 8th: American Hostage Taken During Obama Presidency Freed in Exchange for Iranian Biologist

By Editors of The Free Iran Herald 

Updates on events unfolding in Iran

Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years in Iran by the Khomeinist regime on false charges of spying charges, while the US freed Massoud Soleimani, a biologist affiliated with the Khomeinist regime. Source: U.S. State Department/Iranian Foreign Ministry

Saturday, December 7th, brought the surprise news that Tehran had agreed to free Xiyue Wang, an American student who, as a graduate student at Princeton University doing research on Iranian history, had been arrested in Iran in 2016. Sentenced to 10 years of incarceration on false charges of espionage, Wang was freed in return for a regime agent, Massoud Soleimani, being released from US police custody and returned to Iran. Soleimani, a biologist, had been arrested in October 2018 on charges of conspiring to illegally ship banned biological substances from the US to Iran. Soleimani who travelled to the U.S. in fall of 2018 was arrested as he landed in Chicago and an Atlanta court has charged him and two of his former students, Mahboobeh Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri, of conspiring and attempting to export biological materials from the US to Iran without authorization, in violation of US sanctions. 

Upon his release, Wang was immediately flown to Switzerland, which handles official diplomatic relations between the US and Tehran, where he was met by Brian Hook, US State Department representative on Iran.

US President Donald Trump Tweeted his congratulations to Wang, and also pointed out that Wang’s arrest occurred during the Obama administration, after it had already signed the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) with the regime and given it billions in cash. Indeed, as with all other incidents of western hostage taking, Wang was detained because Tehran knew it could use him as a bargaining chip, to extort something from America. The hostage-taking processed only increased after Tehran saw that Barack Obama would accede to anything it demanded.

Four Americans remain incarcerated in Iran, most notably former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Iranian Given Death Penalty for “Insulting the Prophet Mohammad” 

According to Iranian news media, a 39-year-old man, identified only by his first named of Meysam, has had his death sentence, for the crime of insulting Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, affirmed by the regime’s supreme court. Meysam was alleged to have posted anti-Islamic content on the social media website, Telegram. He was also convicted of possessing anti-regime materials, and of drinking alcohol.

New US Ambassador to the UN Warns Tehran, Says America Will Continue Applying Maximum Pressure

In her first press conference since becoming US Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft spoke, on Friday the 6th, in support of the Iranian protestors. “What I care about is the government is mistreating and abusing the people,” Craft said. “We have not seen any change in this behavior,” especially in the Middle East. She pledged that the Trump administration would continue its maximum pressure campaign against the Tehran regime, and warned that if current policies don’t achieve the desired ends, the US has “other tools. “We have a lot of tools to use and we will continue to use those with Iran. We are taking this very seriously, and there are other tools that we will use against Iran if they continue this malicious behavior.”

The United States currently holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Condemns Khomeinist Regime

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ High Commissioner on Human Rights, released a statement on Friday that described the regime’s suppression of the protests last month as “multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” “Verified video footage indicates severe violence was used against protesters, including armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building in one city, and from helicopters in another,” Bachelet stated. “We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill. These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”

She also expressed concern for the thousands of Iranians detained after the protests, “We also have reports of severe overcrowding and harsh conditions in detention centers, which in some cities include military barracks, sports venues and schools in addition to official detention facilities.  There are also reports that individuals who were wounded or otherwise injured during the crackdown are being denied medical treatment in detention.”

The Khomeinist regime has refused to accept international human rights standards since its establishment in 1979.

Protests Continuing in Both Iran and Iraq

Saturday, Students Day in Iran, saw multiple protests by university students across the country, despite regime attempts to prevent gatherings.

At Tehran University

At Anooshirvan University in the northern city of Babol

University in the north-western city of Tabriz

In Iraq, meanwhile, a prominent anti-Khomeinist activist, was assassinated in Karbala, while others in the southern part of the country were attacked by pro -Tehran militiamen.

On Friday, as-yet-unidentified armed gangs attacked protestors in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, killing 17. Though no one has claimed responsibility, most believe the men to have been from either the Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), Tehran’s main proxy force, or another Shi’a militia, the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.

The attacks came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo placed sanctions on four Hashd al Shaabi and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq leaders; Qais al-Khazali, head of the AAH, his brother and cohort Laith al-Khazali, Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami, an Iraqi officer of the IRGC, and Khamis Farhan al-Khanjar al-Issawi , a corrupt Iraqi businessman.

Iranians Remind Britons of Jeremy Corbyn’s ties to Tehran 

As the United Kingdom braces for an election this coming Wednesday, the 12th, Iranian human rights activists there have been recalling and re-exploring the close relationship Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has with the Khomeinist regime. Specifically, they have been referencing the disclosure made in October that an organization called the “Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC),” a virulently pro-Tehran propaganda maker, was being funded by British taxes, and had been publicly praised by Corbyn.  The IHRC, “represents all that’s best in Islam concerning the rights of individuals to free expression,” Corbyn had said.

The IHRC has called the West, “the enemy,” Britain a “Stasi state,” London an “apartheid city” and the English language a “colonial language.” Its founder, Massoud Shadjareh, is a hardcore Khomeinist who has spoken at several conferences in Iran, and he has denied that the Tehran regime violates human rights.

Corbyn, for his part, was previously a paid commentator for Tehran’s English-language propaganda outlet, Press TV.

Afghans Angered by Tehran’s Friendly Relations with the Taliban

Many Afghans, especially those who have been the direct victims of Taliban terrorist attacks over the past several years, were incensed that Tehran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, invited and welcomed a Taliban delegation to Iran. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a high-ranking Taliban leader, and head of its overseas office in Qatar, led the delegation.

In response, Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the The National Assembly (also known as the Parliament of Afghanistan), demanded that Afghan foreign ministry officials testify about what he described as a violation on Afghanistan’s sovereignty. He further asked the ministry to issue a statement reading that no country has the right to invite the Taliban to visit, under any circumstances.

Abdul Qayum Rahimi, the Governor of Herat Province, which borders Iran, said, “hosting a terrorist group is not the right thing to do, and we expect our neighbor to establish contacts with the Afghan government and people instead of nurturing links with the Taliban.”

Tehran has armed, funded, and provided logistical support to the Taliban for many years, according to many sources, including the Afghan government.

Nigeria Arrests Leader of Khomeinist Proxy Group

Members of the Iran-backed Islamic Movement in Nigeria take part in a demonstration against the detention of their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky in Abuja on January 22, 2019. (AFP)

On Saturday, Nigerian police arrested Ibrahim Zakzaky, a Shi’a cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement, a Tehran-funded terrorist group in that country that seeks to turn Nigeria into a Khomeinist-style theocracy. Zakzaky was detained upon returning from India, where he had gone in pursuit of what he claimed was medical treatment. First arrested by Nigerian authorities in 2015, and charged with multiple counts of homicide, India denied him residence status due to his ties with the Tehran regime.

The Islamic Movement was founded during the 1980s, after Zakzaky visited Iran and converted to the Khomeinist version of Shi’a Islam. The group is armed and has received training from both the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

 

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