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Iran Election Diary

Iranian lawmakers were in a joking mood as they convened this week to vote on President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's cabinet appointments.

Their joviality apparently was too much for state television, which reportedly cut its broadcast of the proceedings because the jokes were getting out of hand.

Recordings of some of the remarks that came before that cutoff have been posted on several websites.

One lawmaker jokes with parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, asking him whether mobile ballot boxes will be sent to arduous regions of the legislature. (Reformists highlighted the potential for vote fraud offered by mobile ballot boxes during the June 12 presidential election.)

Another lawmaker quips that "there has been no fraud, we're saying it right now."

In a reference to a detention center where many postelection detainees were reportedly held and mistreated, another says that "if you mention 'fraud,' we'll take you to Kahrizak." Some Iranians have alleged that they were raped and severely beaten by their captors at Kahrizak. The detention center was ordered closed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following criticism from the opposition.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Abtahi's blog, updated from jail
Iran’s former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who was arrested in the postelection crackdown, has updated his blog from prison.

The move seems to be a clumsy attempt by the authorities to demonstrate that prisoners are being very well treated and that the reports by the families and rights groups about Abtahi and other detainees being under pressure to make false confessions are not true.

With a new photo showing him smiling to the camera, Abtahi writes that he was shocked when his interrogator told him that he could start blogging. He says the interrogator gave him permission after he saw his confiscated laptop and he had told him how much he misses his blog.

In the blog entry, Abtahi writes that the interrogator is the one with whom he’s very friendly (he talked about his “friendly relations" before in a televised interview).

Abtahi’s family and rights activists say he’s been under pressure to make confessions at court and during the televised interview aired last month.

Abtahi also writes that he knows that some of his friends are also jailed and he’s heard “here and there" some names. He says he believes prison has been difficult for all but he adds that he can understand why they were arrested.

He says that since the authorities couldn’t arrest the “main leaders” they arrested him and other reformists to calm the crisis that resulted from the “misgivings” about fraud in the June 12 vote.

Many fellow bloggers have dismissed the blog, saying that it was certainly not written by Abtahi and that he was probably forced to do it under pressure.

One blogger has carefully analyzed the blog entry and highlighted a list of differences in the terms and words that Abtahi used in his prison writing and from before.

Another blogger has reacted to Abtahi’s latest writings by creating an imaginary blog entry by another jailed reformist, Saeed Hajarian, where he describes his friendly relations with his interrogator, Haj Ali and says that they swim together and have kebab for dinner.

In the blog, Hajarian says that he asked his interrogator's permission to prove that there is no torture in Iran’s prisons and that the teeth marks on his lower lips during his recent court appearance were the result of him carelessly gorging himself on delicious kebabs.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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