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‘Police State Harmful For Turnout’, Warns Rouhani’s Minister


(See update at the end of article)

Road and Urban Development Minister, Abbas Akhoundi, has criticized imposing a “police state” and setting up checkpoints in Tehran.

At the same time, there were reports from several other cities and towns of attacks on campaign headquarters of the incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani and attempts aimed at preventing pro Rouhani political activists from speaking at rallies.

“On Thursday evening, May 11, along with an important government personality, I was returning home when I saw two checkpoints raised less than 200 meters (about 220 yards) from my residence. [They were] stopping vehicles and inspecting them,” Abbas Akhoundi said, asking: “Isn’t it possible to guarantee security through imperceptible patrols, or other methods, to avoid a ‘police state’?”

The minister, underscoring his belief that a police state cannot necessarily provide security, said: “There are times that it could backfire, become provocative and undermine security.”

There have been other reports on social media about the presence of riot control units deployed in the capital, Tehran, in recent days.

Expressing regret, Akhoundi added: “Preventing election rallies to take place has a negative impact on the turnout [in May 19 election].”

On Wednesday May 10, the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referring to the widespread and bloody uprising against the outcome of the 2009 presidential election, explicitly warned the candidates and their supporters: “Anyone undermining the security of the country will face a heavy slap.”

Khamenei and his close allies have labelled the 2009 protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “sedition”.

Echoing Khamenei’s comment, the acting police force commander, Eskandar Mo’meni, warned: “Enemies of the regime are lurking to reap the highest possible benefit, in case something happenes.”

In recent days, a number of reformists and supporters of President Rouhani, including the former Mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi and two former MPs, Fa’eze Hashemi and Ali Shakouri Rad have been forced to cancel their planned public speeches.

Meanwhile, political and security deputy of Kohgilooye Province, Fattah Mohammadi, has mentioned a court order allegedly banning Ms. Hashemi from speaking in public.

“[According to the court order,] Ms. Hashemi is legally banned from speaking at public places for six months.” Mohammadi added.

Nevertheless, Ms. Hashemi has already denied the existence of such a court order.

Former Tehran mayor and the Chairman of the ‘Executives of the Construction Party’, Gholamhossein Karbaschi’s scheduled speeches were also banned after he criticized Iran’s foreign policy.

On May 10, the head of judiciary in Eastern Azarbaijan Province, Ali Mozaffari, also declared that Faezae Hashemi’s and Ali Shakouri Rad’s scheduled speeches were banned; because they have conviction records.

Recently, some websites and news agencies close to the incumbent have also reported cases of assault on his campaign headquarters and court summons for his supporters.

According to these reports, on May 10, unidentified persons attacked President Rouhani’s campaign headquarters in “Ekhtiyariye’, a neighborhood in Tehran, breaking windows and tearing up banners. It was the copycat of a similar attack in Tajrish district where the attackers used pepper sprays, as well.

Furthermore, Rouhani’s election headquarters spokesman, Mohammad Ali Vakili, criticized what he described as Rouhani campaign centers being sealed off and campaign workers summoned to court.

Update: Immediately after the final presidential debate of Friday, May 12, the head of Rouhani’s campaign, Mohammad Shariatmadari, warned against some “likely moves”.

In a letter to Rouhani’s campaign centers all over Iran, Shariatmadari called upon them to stay calm in case of provocations, Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA reported.

“Notorious and infamous characters” are behind these provocative, troublesome and unrestful movements, said Shariatmadari and appealed for keeping the peace and avoiding any instigating reaction.

Shariatmadari did not elaborate on the source(s) of these “likely moves” or who is behind them.

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