Iranian authorities have threatened a crackdown against protesters and scrambled to block social media apps allegedly used to incite unrest as the biggest demonstrations in nearly a decade continued for a fourth day.
People across Iran took to the streets again on Sunday evening in defiance of a heavy presence of riot police and state warnings to stay away.
The demonstrations began over economic grievances on Thursday but have since taken on a political dimension, with unprecedented calls for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down.
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in his first comments about the protests, aired on national television on Sunday night, said “people have the right to criticise”, but said the authorities would not tolerate antisocial behaviour. He said criticism was “different from violence and destroying public properties”.
Officials said they arrested at least 200 people during demonstrations in central Tehran on Saturday. It was not clear how many were arrested in the provinces, which saw protests on a bigger scale than the capital. Two protesters were killed in western Iran on Saturday.
The protests are the biggest in Iran since 2009, when demonstrators called for the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president after what they regarded as his fraudulent re-election.
Videos posted on social media from Saturday night in Tehran showed protesters taking down large banners depicting the ayatollah’s image, in acts of resistance rarely seen since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
One video showed demonstrators taking down an image of the leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, Qassem Suleimani, who is spearheading Iran’s involvement in regional affairs, particularly the war in Syria.
Rouhani, urging the nation to be vigilant, acknowledged that people were unhappy about the state of economy, corruption and a lack of transparency. “People are allowed under the constitution to criticise or even protest but […] in a way that at the end they lead to a better situation in the country for the people,” he said.
Condemning the US president, Donald Trump, who has voiced support for the protests, Rouhani said: “This gentleman who today sympathises with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called us a terrorist nation. The one who has opposed the Iranian nation from his head to his toe has no right to express sympathy for people of Iran.”
On Sunday Trump tweeted that “people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism”, adding that the US was “watching very closely for human rights violations”.
Earlier in the day, Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazil, said authorities would not tolerate the “spreading of violence, fear and terror”, which he said would “definitely be confronted”.
“Those who damage public property, disrupt order, people’s security and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and should answer and pay the price,” he said, according to the website of the state broadcaster Irib.
The broadcaster said authorities had blocked Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which is the most popular social networking platform in Iran, citing an anonymous source who said the move was “in line with maintaining peace and security of the citizens”. Authorities said the filtering was temporary.
Telegram’s CEO, Pavel Durov, said it had blocked access to the popular Amadnews channel after it had “started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police”.
A source in Iran told the Guardian the state had started blocking access to Telegram, but it was not covering all provinces yet.
Authorities said two protesters were killed in the western province of Lorestan on Saturday, but denied it was the result of clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
The deputy governor for Lorestan, Habibollah Khojastehpour, said police and security guards had not opened fire, and instead blamed “Takfiri groups” – Iran’s term for Sunni extremists – and foreign intelligence services. “Unfortunately in these clashes two citizens from [the city of] Doroud were killed,” he said.
Many senior figures within the reformist camp and the opposition Green movement remain perplexed as to how to respond to the current wave of unrest. The sharp nature of some of the slogans, which have challenged the foundations of the Islamic republic, has left them mute.
There have been anti-Khamenei chants such as “Death to the dictator” and slogans opposing Iran’s regional policy, including “Let go of Syria, think about us” and “I give my life for Iran, not Gaza, not Lebanon”.
There were also nostalgic slogans in support of the monarchy and the late shah, as well as some with a nationalistic nature, including “We are of Aryaee [Aryan] race, we don’t worship Arabs.” Relatively fewer chants were heard in support of two opposition leaders under house arrest, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
Some videos showed protesters apparently setting bins on fire and trying to break into government buildings. The semi-official Tasnim news, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, published a photo that it said showed a protester setting fire to the Iranian flag. There were chants of “Death to the Revolutionary Guards” in at least one city.
Many Iranians are sceptical about how the protests have spread so quickly. One prominent senior reformist commentator, Hamidreza Jalaipour, said reformists were opposed to protests instigated by “advocates of regime change”, implying that the new wave of protests was not spontaneous.
A protester from Tehran University told the Guardian by phone that although students were puzzled about how the protests were organised and spreading so quickly, they were not “getting leads from anyone”.
Ali Vaez, Iran project director at International Crisis Group, called the protests “an explosion of the Iranian people’s pent-up frustrations over economic and political stagnation”, but he said: “This is neither a revolution nor a movement.”
Vaez said: “Given its lack of leadership, organisation and mission, it is likely to peter out or will be quelled. The Rouhani administration has two options: it can follow the example of its predecessors ([Ali Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani after the protests of the early 1990s and [Mohammad] Khatami after the 1999 student uprising) and opt for a more cautious path, or capitalise on public discontent to push the system towards more genuine reforms. That choice will ultimately determine the Islamic Republic’s fate.”
Iranian conservatives, while acknowledging ordinary people were protesting for what they said were mainly economic reasons, accused foreign powers of inciting violence and exploiting the situation.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
George HW Bush has died
George Herbert Walker Bush, the linchpin of an American political dynasty whose presidency saw the end of the Cold War and the close of an era of American bipartisanship that conflict fostered, has died. He was 94.
During his single term in the White House, the Berlin Wall fell, newly democratic states sprang up across Central and Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union came to an end. And in the Middle East, the U.S. military launched its most successful offensive since World War II. For a time, Bush rode foreign policy triumphs to high popularity. But he saw his standing plunge during a 1990s recession and lost to Bill Clinton after one term.
On April 22nd President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital after contracting an infection that spread to his blood. He was said to have been responding to treatments and appeared to be recovering.
Court Orders White House to give Jim Acosta his hard pass back
Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly sided with CNN on Friday, ordering the White House to reinstate chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass.
The ruling was an initial victory for CNN in its lawsuit against President Trump and several top aides.
The lawsuit alleges that CNN and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the suspension of Acosta’s press pass.
Kelly did not rule on the underlying case on Friday. But he granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order.
This result means that Acosta will have his access to the White House restored for at least a short period of time. The judge said while explaining his decision that he believes that CNN and Acosta are likely to prevail in the case overall.
CNN is also asking for “permanent relief,” meaning a declaration from the judge that Trump’s revocation of Acosta’s press pass was unconstitutional. This legal conclusion could protect other reporters from retaliation by the administration.
“The revocation of Acosta’s credentials is only the beginning,” CNN’s lawsuit alleged, pointing out that Trump has threatened to strip others’ press passes too.
That is one of the reasons why most of the country’s major news organizations have backed CNN’s lawsuit, turning this into an important test of press freedom.
But the judge will rule on all of that later. Further hearings are likely to take place in the next few weeks, according to CNN’s lawyers.
CNN sues President Trump for banning reporter Jim Acosta
CNN is filing a lawsuit against President Trump and several of his aides, seeking the immediate restoration of chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s access to the White House.
The lawsuit is a response to the White House’s suspension of Acosta’s press pass, known as a Secret Service “hard pass,” last week. The suit alleges that Acosta and CNN’s First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the ban.
The suit is being filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning, a CNN spokeswoman confirmed.
Both CNN and Acosta are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. There are six defendants: Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Joseph Clancy, and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s hard pass away last Wednesday. The officer is identified as John Doe in the suit, pending his identification.
The six defendants are all named because of their roles in enforcing and announcing Acosta’s suspension.
Last Wednesday, shortly after Acosta was denied entry to the White House grounds, Sanders defended the unprecedented step by claiming that he had behaved inappropriately at a presidential news conference. CNN and numerous journalism advocacy groups rejected that assertion and said his pass should be reinstated.
On Friday, CNN sent a letter to the White House formally requesting the immediate reinstatement of Acosta’s pass and warning of a possible lawsuit, the network confirmed.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, CNN said it is seeking a preliminary injunction as soon as possible so that Acosta can return to the White House right away, and a ruling from the court preventing the White House from revoking Acosta’s pass in the future.
“CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration this morning in DC District Court,” the statement read. “It demands the return of the White House credentials of CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process. We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process.”
CNN also asserted that other news organizations could have been targeted by the Trump administration this way, and could be in the future.
“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone,” the network said. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”
Acosta has continued to do part of his job, contacting sources and filing stories, but he has been unable to attend White House events or ask questions in person — a basic part of any White House correspondent’s role.
Acosta is on a previously scheduled vacation this week. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
On CNN’s side, CNN Worldwide chief counsel David Vigilante is joined by two prominent attorneys, Ted Boutrous and Theodore Olson. Both men are partners at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Last week, before he was retained by CNN, Boutrous tweeted that the action against Acosta “clearly violates the First Amendment.” He cited the Sherrill case.
“This sort of angry, irrational, false, arbitrary, capricious content-based discrimination regarding a White House press credential against a journalist quite clearly violates the First Amendment,” he wrote.
David McCraw, the top newsroom lawyer at The New York Times, said instances of news organizations suing a president are extremely rare.
Past examples are The New York Times v. U.S., the famous Supreme Court case involving the Pentagon Papers in 1971; and CNN’s 1981 case against the White House and the broadcast networks, when CNN sued to be included in the White House press pool.
The backdrop to this new suit, of course, is Trump’s antipathy for CNN and other news outlets. He regularly derides reporters from CNN and the network as a whole.
Abrams posited on “Reliable Sources” on Sunday that CNN might be reluctant to sue because the president already likes to portray the network as his enemy. Now there will be a legal case titled CNN Inc. versus President Trump.
But, Abrams said, “this is going to happen again,” meaning other reporters may be banned too.
“Whether it’s CNN suing or the next company suing, someone’s going to have to bring a lawsuit,” he said, “and whoever does is going to win unless there’s some sort of reason.”
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