Published in German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” on 21 May 2010
Source (German):
English translation provided by @germantoenglish

by Martin Gehlen
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former Iranian vice-president and critic of President Ahmadinejad, was brutally attacked in Tehran. The regime continues to relentlessly confront its opponents.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi in a show trial was sentenced to six years in prison. (Photo: Archive, 2005) © Henghameh Fahimi/AFP/Getty Images

As soon as the former Iranian vice-president left the mosque in Southern Tehran and got into his car, he was attacked by hired thughs. Armed with knives and cables, they smashed the windows of his car, and sprayed tear gas inside. Later, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, still shocked, wrote on his Facebook wall that he “miraculously” managed to escape unhurt. He also posted photos of the damaged white car. It was a “very brutal” attack, nobody came to his help, while the perpetrators were “fearless and confident”, he said.

Abtahi, who is known in the West as the “blogging mullah”, is currently at large. The former representative of reformist president Mohammad Khatami was arrested shortly after the controversial presidential election that took place on 12 June 2009. According to his family, he was tortured and drugged in prison and eventually sentenced to six years in prison during a humiliating show trial. In late 2009 he was released on a 700,000 $ bail and is currently at large until the hearing of his appeal, for which a date has not yet been set.

Even though Sadegh Larijani, chief of the judiciary, stopped the televised tribunals, the relentless persecution and intimidation of dissidents continues. Six protesters, who were sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, are currently awaiting their execution.

According to PEN center, more than 60 journalists and bloggers are currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin prison – almost as many as in China, whose population is 20 times larger than Iran’s. Among the detained is Mohammad Davari, chief editor of the website Saham News that first revealed the rape of young prisoners in the Kahrizak detention center last year. Human rights organizations estimate the number of political prisoners to amount to several hundreds.

Week after week, reports on draconian prison terms or new arrests of human rights activists, professors, artists, teachers, lawyers and students reach the outside world. Just recently, this happened following a failed appearance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Campus of Tehran University, where he was met by students chanting “death to the dictator” and “we don’t want a coup government”, preventing him from delivering his speech, and eventually forced him to leave the campus. The following night, intelligence agents broke into the dormitory and arrested Maryam Abbasinejad, a member of the student’s council.

Jafar Panahi, the well known Iranian filmmaker, was detained three months ago. Neither his lawyer nor his family were able to find out about his charges. After he was recently forced to stand in the cold in front of his cell naked while his interrogators threatened they would go and get his daughter, the 49-year old started a hunger strike.

“I am innocent, and I will not sign any confession that was coerced through threats”, he wrote from Evin prison in an open letter that was read out by French cultural minister Frederic Mitterand at the Cannes film festival. He concluded: “Let us not forget the thousands of defenceless prisoners. They, just like me, have committed no crime”.