Ali Ghazali, managing editor of Baztab Emrooz website (left), and Foad Sadeghi, its founder (right)

On April 27, just hours after Baztab Emrooz website published an article about a recording, referred to as “the eight million tape,” that allegedly refers to improper vote counts in Iran’s 2009 presidential election, Iranian officials arrested Managing Editor Ali Ghazali. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Ghazali’s mother was told “not to have any hopes of seeing your son outside of prison for a few years.”

“The Prosecutor’s Office has said that the Intelligence Ministry insists that arrest warrants for the other Baztab employees must be issued as well,” said the source. Ali Ghazali was summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office on April 27, and when he appeared at Branch 12, his arrest warrant was issued and he was transferred to prison, the source told the Campaign.

Ghazali has been charged with “creating public anxiety through repetition of claims of election fraud in the 2009 election.” His arrest was allegedly ordered by Mr. Naimi, the Intelligence Ministry’s Deputy for Culture and Media.

In a news article entitled “The Eight Million Tape: Is It Ahmadinejad’s Exposé in Case Mashaei Is Disqualified?”, published April 27, Baztab Emrooz claimed, “According to a story by a group of economic activists affiliated with Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s trump card is a tape recording of conversations he had on the morning of June 13 [2009]. According to this unofficial news, in that conversation some officials report to Ahmadinejad that his real vote count is 16 million, but in order to prevent speculations of fraud and to make the difference in votes [with the rival candidate] appear higher, it has been decided to announce that [he received] 24 million votes. But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emphasizes to the officials to announce his actual votes, which were 16 million, and not to announce the inaccurate vote count. The remainder of the tape recording is of Ahmadinejad’s calls to various state officials, in which he asks them not to announce the unreal vote count and [to announce] the same 16 million vote count.”

Referring to previous tapes Ahmadinejad had released, the Baztab article added, “It does not appear that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s past disclosures, which went as far as accusing the families of the heads of the Legislative and Judiciary Branches and the head of the Expediency Council of financial corruption, will be effective for him in these tough election times, and he must now turn over other cards from his stock, exposés that must be at a higher level than the past instances.”

An April 29 statement published on the presidential website entitled “The main objective for the publication of certain false content is destruction of the environment for epic participation” claimed, “Following publication of the unreal news with the topic of ‘The Eight Million Tape’ by an online news website whose specific political tendencies are well known by all, it is unequivocally emphasized that the main topic presented in the news article, and whatever is attributed to the President within it, is completely baseless and pure lies.”

“Even though the article was immediately eliminated from the website after its publication, the objective for its publication was to question the health of the 2009 presidential election and to portray the future presidential election as distorted, aiming to create concern among the people about the safekeeping of their votes, and as a result, reducing their participation and destroying the environment for epic [voter] participation,” the statement adds.

The source with knowledge of Ghazali’s situation told the Campaign that the founder of the Baztab Emrooz news website Foad Sadeghi has also been threatened not to have any media activities until the end of the elections and not to start other news websites. “Foad Sadeghi has been threatened that if the Baztab website team participates in any media work, all of them will be arrested before the elections…. He goes to Prosecutor’s Office every day to see [Tehran Prosecutor] Jafari Dolatabadi. He was told that if he restarts the Baztab website, the Prosecutor will order the arrest of everyone,” the source told the Campaign.

Ali Ghazali is currently an economics Ph.D. student. Since his arrest on April 27, he has not had any contact with his family.

“Baztab and its managers had been under a lot of pressure ever since they published news about Raeiat and Babak Zanjani, two security figures who have had widespread financial corruption. They were threatened with arrest last year, and at one point the website offices were subjected to a search. Foad Sadeghi and Ali Ghazali were summoned at that time and asked why they were reporting on that subject,” the source told the Campaign.