Dr. Forood Fouladvand, a self-styled monarchist who disappeared along with two associates on the Turkish border with Iran on Jan. 17, 2007, faces imminent execution by the Iranian authorities, Iranian exiles in London and former colleagues tell Newsmax.
According to these sources, Fouladvand will be executed in the coming days, on trumped-up charges of supporting terrorism inside Iran.
"He is the Robert Spencer of Iran," one supporter in London said, referring to a U.S. expert of Islam who has used Islamic texts to warn the West about the violent side of orthodox Islam doctrine.
“Dr. Fouladvand has studied Islamic texts in the original Arabic and has been using them to convince Iranians to abandon Islam on radio and satellite television broadcasts from London,” he added.
Fouladvand heads a group called Anjoman-e Padeshahi Iran (API), the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, which advocates restoration of the constitutional monarchy abolished by the Islamic Republic in 1980.
Unlike many monarchists, however, he is not a supporter of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former shah, but believes that Iranians should restore the 1906 constitution that imposes real limits on the power of the monarch and guarantees a form of parliamentary rule.
Fouladvand used his satellite television broadcasts into Iran to advocate the overthrow of absolute clerical rule under the Islamic republic.
A colleague in Europe, who contacted Newsmax by phone on Thursday, said the group has received detailed information in the past three days confirming that Fouladvand was kidnapped in Turkey by Iranian government agents and is now being held along with two colleagues in an Iranian prison.
“We have been told he could be killed very soon, and we are appealing to Amnesty International and to other human rights groups for help,” Fouladvand’s colleague said.
In January 2007, Fouladvand traveled to Romania and then to the Hakkiri mountains along the Turkish border with Iran, apparently lured by promises from individuals claiming to be his supporters who were either working for the Tehran regime or had been co-opted by them, Iranian exile sources told Newsmax.
These would-be supporters claimed to have blown up the Sivand Dam in August 2006, which if completed as planned by the regime would have destroyed the ancient Persian city of Pasargard.
Iranian opposition groups have made common cause in recent years to preserve Persian heritage sites, Persian names, as well as symbols of Iran’s pre-Islamic Zoroastrian culture.
Many Iranians have rejected the Islamic names they were given by their parents, at the instigation of the state, in favor of Persian names.
For example, Foulodvand’s real name is Fatollah Manouchehri, but he cast aside his Islamic/Arabic first name (which means “Allah’s victory”) in favor of the more Persian-sounding Forood.
Fouladvand set off for Turkey in the company of two colleagues, whom his associates confirm were kidnapped with him.
The associates identified the other two missing persons as an Iranian-American dual national, Nazem Schmidt (also known as “Simorgh”), and an Iranian-German dual national, Alexander Valizadeh, who called himself Kourosh Lor.
(Kourosh is the Persian name of the emperor Cyrus the Great who released the Jews from captivity in Babylon; “Lor” is the name of a famous Iranian tribe from southwest of Tehran, long-known for its opposition to the Tehran regime).
Until now, the Tehran government has not acknowledged the arrest of Fouladvand or his two colleagues. But recently, they accused his group, the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, of having carried out the bombing of a mosque in Shiraz on April 12, that killed 12 persons and injured dozens more.
In initial press statements, the regime said that explosives on display devoted to the Iran-Iraq war had caused the blast. Only later did they try to blame various opposition groups.
It is well-known inside Iran that the bassij militia, nominally under the leadership for the Revolutionary Guards, stockpiles weapons and munitions in mosques around the country to use to counter anti-regime demonstrations.
“The bassij are notoriously badly trained and are sloppy,” says Sardar Haddad, a Texas-based Iranian dissident with close ties to the Iranian military. “So an accident is the most likely scenario for what actually caused the Shiraz mosque explosion, but this is too embarrassing for the regime to admit.”
In recent weeks, regime officials have tried to pin the blame for the Shiraz mosque explosion on a variety of opposition groups.
“The blast ... was caused by a bombing by a terrorist group with links to Western countries, especially Britain and America,” intelligence minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie said on May 9.
One week later, Ejeie accused a blogger in Germany of having financed the explosion, which he now blamed on “monarchist elements.”
On May 17, Ejeie changed tact, this time alleging that the bombers were linked to a British-based television station run by Fouladvand.
“My guess is that it’s highly unlikely – close to zero percent chance – that Fouladvand’s organization was behind the Shiraz bombing," said Texas-based Sardar Haddad.
“It may be that the regime wanted to use the bombing to close his case before they executed him, claiming that they had videotape or a transcript of him confessing” to plotting the attack,” he said.
The allegation that Fouladvand’s organization had support from the United States or Britain is particularly ludicrous, given the difficulty Fouladvand has encountered in Britain in recent years.
After staging a number of high-profile protests against the regime in Europe, British authorities raided Fouladvand's offices in London on June 17, 2005, the day of the Iranian presidential elections, severely beating him and seizing documents and computers.
According to the official police report, Scotland Yard issued a search warrant under the Terrorism Act of 2000 on the grounds that "Fouladvand has been been campaign for the overthrow of the Iranian government via satellite broadcasts" and was "raising money to facilitate this action" on television.
In addition to beating Dr. Fouladvand and several supporters, and confiscating computers and other documents, the British authorities seized a briefcase containing thousand of dollars in cash which they claimed had been raised "for the unlawful overthrow of the Iranian government." So far, the British government has not apologized for its action or returned the money.
No one from Fouladvand’s family or his organization has heard from him since his cellphone went dead on Jan. 17, 2007, in Turkey. The local police found his rental car with broken windows and other signs that it had been attacked.
However, members of his organization say that they have been approached by an individual in Iran who has demanded large sums of money in exchange for a video-tape of Fouladvand in an Iranian prison. Until now, the group has refused the exchange.
“I’ve heard nothing definitive to suggest that he’s still alive,” said Sardar Haddad. “If he was captured more than a year ago, given his background, it’s quite likely that he has been treated badly and could already be dead.”
The Department of State refused to comment on the detention by Iran of U.S. citizen, Nazem Schmidt, citing Privacy Act restrictions. “Unless an American citizen has delivered a signed Privacy Act waiver, we cannot say anything whatsoever about them,” a spokesman told Newsmax.
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