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Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – 293

Rajavi Verses Mesdaghi

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++ A film and article about the MEK in Albania was published by Sunday Times journalist Matthew Campbell. Twenty years ago, Campbell had links with the MEK through Hossein Abedini, in the MEK’s Public Relations department, who has since vanished from public life. For decades, the MEK wouldn’t trust journalists to visit their camps: before this the New York Times and National Geographic’s Michael Ware were the only media invited in. Certainly, nobody until now was granted an interview with Maryam Rajavi. According to internal sources, her brief appearance was strictly controlled, with Campbells’ film of the interview being checked before he left the camp to ensure he had no unwanted footage. (He is of course, invited to disavow this information.) Even so, he couldn’t disguise Rajavi’s fish-eyed appearance and wooden pose along with her out of date knowledge of Iranian civil society.

Campbell tried his best to make something positive for the MEK. Reviewing the one-sided nature of the report prompted Massoud Khodabandeh to address Campbell in the Comments saying that

“Good to see they have accepted a journalist inside at all. The picture would have been completed with more info about their time (Most of their active lives) with Saddam, fighting their own country.”

Inevitably the film couldn’t avoid showing some of the realities in the camp: the computer rooms showed that, prompted by this article, the MEK had made some effort to look more ‘normal’ (mugs on the tables, pictures of the leader on the desks instead of on the walls), but the plastic garden chairs, and unsuitable spectacles were still in evidence.

Later Ebrahim Khodabandeh, CEO of Nejat Society wrote an analysis of Campbell’s report, going into some details. Specifically, he pointed out that in this film they deny that they have daily confessional sessions. He said ‘this is where they are: forget about even talking about their missing leader Massoud Rajavi, they can’t admit to an audience of ordinary people what they are doing now on a daily basis. This is the sign of a cult. It is, of course, a welcome move that with no kids in the camp they have accepted to admit that they have universal divorces. They used to deny this. In Farsi, many commented that in parts of the film they could not avoid showing reality because it is so obvious. Even though it’s an advert they can’t hide it. Hence, the two young girls who looked like they couldn’t punch their way out of paper bag talking about the violent overthrow of the regime; the young man who couldn’t find Iran on a map, fooled into becoming the next suicide bomber; the elderly man on a mobility scooter which reminded everyone of the incontinence pad photograph.

Several people commented that this promotional film has backfired and has been a waste of Saudi money. The MEK had hoped to go on to advertise their brand on the back of this film. Instead, first they had to denounce that part of the film in which Campbell had tried to be even handed, the interview with ex-member Hassan Heyrani. They attacked the ex-members as though they had been responsible for making the film. Then they stopped talking about the film altogether. This prompted mockery as commentators suggested that Shahin Gobadi would have had to go into isolation and write a report since Maryam Rajavi would blame him for bringing the reporter in the first place: ‘Regrets, I have a few…’.

++ The court case of Hamid Nouri in Stockholm is an example of how a country’s judicial system can be compromised by bending to someone else’s agenda. The case is being covered daily by Saudi backed Iran International; BBC Farsi and every other anti-Iran outlet are also on top of it. It is a case in which the prosecutor has chosen 50 people to give evidence against the defendant – some are appointed as victims and some as witnesses. This week, Massoud Khodabandeh, Sara Zahiri, a reporter in Iran, and Peyman Aref, international law expert in Brussels. joined Vahid Farkhondeh, a journalist in Switzerland for an online programme called Kelid Vajeh to discuss this court case.

Zahiri explained the situation of the MEK from an Iranian point of view; what happened in the Forough Javidan operation in Iran and how Iranians consider the MEK, killing their own people. Farkhondeh and Aref examined details about the court itself. How, according to international law – or any law – the court must first prove that this defendant is the person they say he is, especially since pseudonyms have been used. Yet there is no proof except the witnesses. The defendant denies he is that person and says that he wasn’t where it is claimed he was at that time. Considering that this basic fact-checking has not been done, it is interesting that the prosecutor brought 50 people to testify against him. Choosing so many people to give evidence means that if the court works 3 days per week and each person takes some days to give their evidence, this court case will not take less than 3 years. This looks like a deliberate act. This becomes more suspicious since the court room is filmed without hindrance and broadcast to the anti-Iran media. It is then immediately amplified by the MEK who put their spin on events. The programme’s contributors said this is very strange and that the lawyers of this defendant should take note of these irregularities and question them.
Massoud Khodabandeh talked more about irregularities concerning the witnesses. Specifically relating to the judicial system in Sweden. He recalled that the same system went after Julian Assange on rape charges and when it became too obvious this was a ploy to get him brought to Sweden to be handed over to the Americans, they had to back off with the ridiculous excuse that the memories of the witnesses had faded. Yet in this case, the memories of fifty people are clear enough after three decades. So that they can state categorically that from behind a blindfold thirty years ago, I remembered that this is the same guy. Khodabandeh also said that ironically all these witnesses stand outside the court together, with MEK flags in their hands, declaring victory. The same flag they used to attack Iran with Saddam’s army. He also made the point that these people, however the Swedish judiciary thinks they are credible, are members of a cult, who will kill for their leader never mind lying for their leader. There are pictures of some of them getting ‘charity’ collections in the street (Iran Aid). Khodabandeh said, I cannot find a single one of them who had a proper job whether window cleaner of brain surgeon and paid a penny of tax to their country of residence. Whatever is the Swedish judicial bench mark for the credibility of witnesses, they have tried to choose people from MEK who are not widely known. If they wanted to, they could have brought 500. They have the numbers. If this is the case, am I allowed to bring 200 people to come and testify that each of these people and the prosecutor and the judge have a unicorn horn on their heads but don’t know it themselves. It is not a matter of whether this is a kangaroo court or not, the point is that it has been exposed to be a mockery of what it is. That is due to the ‘tools’ not doing what they should. The first and primary witness, Iraj Mesdaghi cannot keep his mouth shut and gives interviews boasting how ‘we’ fooled this man, set a trap to bring him to Sweden, offering a luxury yacht and five-star hotels to lure him here. In other words, entrapment. He emphasises that “we” paid for it ourselves. This begs the question, because Mesdaghi is an ex-member who never worked and who lives a fairly ordinary life, where is this money from? As is usual, each and every anti-Iran human rights activist claims that we don’t get paid by this one or that one, but that doesn’t address the question ‘where DO you get money from’. Is it possible for Mesdaghi to be a credible witness when he freely admits to having entrapped the defendant. Specifically, the way he gives evidence is interesting. He is allowed to simply talk for an hour or so without being interrupted or questioned. This is because the prosecutors want him to talk. They are giving him a platform to be filmed rather than acting as a witness. Indeed, they give him so much time that he runs out of material; once he ended up describing in detail how in the prison one of the taps wasn’t working properly and dripped. Mesdaghi is a wild card who seeks attention and fame and cannot be controlled. On the ‘other side’ of Mesdaghi is the MEK.

Khodabandeh said that according to sources inside the camp, the MEK are facing the concept that Iraj Mesdaghi has taken over from Maryam Rajavi in terms of importance and prominence. This concern is directed at the ones who are paying; Mesdaghi will get the money rather than us. Again, the payers cannot control the MEK any more than Mesdaghi. Although 50 relatively unknown people were chosen out of the 2000 members, they can’t help coming out and taking photos together under the MEK flag. They don’t care about the court case, they only want to out publicise Maryam Rajavi . When Maryam Rajavi agrees to talk with the Sunday Times journalist and approves publication of the programme it is in order to attach this interview to the court case. Two years down the line they will refer to this court case and Maryam Rajavi’s leadership and link it to president Ebrahim Raisi, saying next court case should be against him. So overwhelmed have the MEK become to get on top of this propaganda opportunity that they have had to divide their Farsi outlets to use this material – some propaganda outlets are for the MEK and some propaganda is specifically against Mesdaghi and his gang.

In the programme, the presenter Farkhondeh asked what the outcome of the court would be. Khodabandeh said that it is not about the outcome. Of course, for the defendant, it’s important, but the purpose of the court case is not the outcome but the journey. It is not about justice; it is about two or three years of anti-Iran propaganda. The conclusion is that the court case is about propaganda against Iran, which doesn’t take it seriously. The real damage is that done to the Swedish judiciary as in the Assange case. The message is that ‘Sweden is not impartial, we can bend our rules and regulations’. As a UK citizen I am unhappy that Sweden is going down this path of being used by those who have their own agenda.

Aug 28, 2021

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