News from Iran – Week 20 – 2013


Prisoners’ News


  • Ayoub Asadi, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Kashmar to serve his 20 year sentence.
  • Emergency transfer of Dervish lawyer Amir Eslami to hospital after heart attack.
  • Fakhroldin Faraji, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Tabas to serve his 30 year sentence.
  • Chengiz Ghadem-Kheiri , Kurdish political activist, transferred to Masjede-Soleiman to serve his 40 year sentence.
  • Kurdish activist on death row, Habibollah Golparipour, transferred to Urmiah prison from Semnan.
  • Namegh Mahmoudi, 62 years old political prisoner of Rejaei Shahr, transferred to hospital.
  • Mohammad-Hossein Rezaei, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Minoab to serve his 30 year sentence.



  • Javad Abou-Ali and Mohammad Danaei arrested in Behbahan.
  • Civil activist Behnam Bagheri arrested in a raid of his toy store in Maku.
  • Gonabadi dervish, Seyed Ebrahim Bahrami, arrested in Kavar.
  • Hamid-Reza Rezaei, vice-admiral in charge of special marine commandos in Sirjan arrested.
  • Abdollah Sadoughi, environmentalist, arrested at home in Tabriz.
  • Masoud Shamsnejad, law professor at Payam-e-Noor and Azad Universities of Urmia, and lawyer of death row prisoner Habibillah Golparipour, arrested.
  • Activist/poet, law student Jahanbakhsh Soltanzadeh (Salour) arrested in a raid of his home
  • Temporary detention order for Human Rights activists/journalists Masoud and Khosro Kordpour has been extended another 2 months – At the urging of his family Khosro Kurdpour ended his hunger strike after 25 days.



  • Ali Azad, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Shohreh Azami-Kassaei freed after serving her sentence.
  • Mahmoud Dordkeshan freed after serving 1 year in prison.
  • Political prisoner Pouria Ebrahimi released from Evin after completing 1 year sentence.
  • Workers’ Rights activist, Ghaleb Hosseini, arrested 19 March, released on 150 million toman bail.
  • Zhinous Nourani freed after serving her sentence.

D-Other News

  • Shirin Ebadi accepts Golden Lily of Florence on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh.
  • Imprisoned journalist, Rahman Ghahremanpour, denied transfer to hospital for refusing to wear prison uniform.
  • Mostafa Nili, political prisoner of Rejaei Shahr, not allowed furlough to attend his father’s funeral.
  • Prominent Iranian union leader, Mansour Osanlou, says he left country after death threats.
  • Political prisoners in Zahedan central prison launched a hunger strike to protest their continued illegal imprisonment and prevention of their basic rights.
  • Mohammad-Reza Ahmadi-Nia, member of Pen club, sentenced to 3 years in prison + 1 year suspended.
  • Court overturns the exile sentence of Mokhtar Asadi, member of Teacher’s Union.
  • Mohsen Ghashghaeizadeh sentenced to 2 years.
  • Sirwan and Shirzad Hossein Panahi, Kurdish civil activists sentenced to 6 months each.


News of injustice in Iran

  • One hanging in Kermanshah on Sunday.
  • Three hangings in Rajaei-Shahr on Wednesday.
  • One public hanging in Noshahr.
  • Seven hangings in Rasht prison.


University – Culture

  • 8 booths closed and 883 books withdrawn at Tehran International Book Fair.
  • Mohammad-Rezā Lotfi’s concert canceled by ministry of Culture and Guidance.



  • Khatoon Abad Copper strikers attacked by the guards.
  • “Bouazizi of Ahwaz”, Mehdi Hadi Mojadam, dies of burns injuries.
  • 400 building workers protest in Seyyed Alshohada mosque in Shariati Street of Tehranpars.
  • Taxi drivers are on strike in Sanandaj
  • Journalists of Shahrvand go on strike.
  • 150 bus drivers of Tehran protest in front of Tehran Town Hall.


Iran abroad

  • Afghanistan says nine migrants killed by Iranian border guards.
  • Lotfollah Forouzandeh, Iranian Vice President, meets Head of Turkish Parliament in Ankara.
  • Iranian convicted over Nigeria arms.
  • US to block sales of gold to Iran in sanctions pressure.
  • First group of 14 Iraqi members of MKO moved to Albania.
  • Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade leaves for Vietnam.
  • Two Iranian diplomats declared “personae non grata” by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Security Ministry.


Iran Economics

  • Akhshan seat-belt factory closure in Shiraz leaves 500 unemployed.
  • Iran banned luxury car imports (Benz + Porsche).
  • South Korea cut crude imports from Iran by half in April.
  • Sharp decline in IRI Shipping Lines revenues.


Iran Politics

  • A total of 686 hopefuls have registered for Iran’s presidential election.
  • 35 reformist candidates disqualified in municipal elections.
  • Guardian Council extends deadline to announce final list of Iran presidential candidates to May 21.
  • 100 Majlis deputies ask Gardians Council not to approve candidacy of Rafsanjani and Mashaei.
  • 2 sites close to candidate Rahim Mashaei filtered.
  • Vice President Rahimi withdraws presidential candidacy.
  • Foreign Minister Spokesman resigns amid presidential bid.
  • Ayatollah Sistani deems that being a candidate at the presidential election is a duty for Rafsanjani.
  • The Reformists Advisory Council and The Participation Front have officially endorsed Hashemi Rafsanjani.
  • The manager of Keyhan newspaper threatens Rafsanjani of clashes with Hezbollah and Supreme Guide support.
  • Young Reformists supporters of Rafsanjani were prevented from holding a pre-approved meeting in Rasht.



  • Earthquake of magnitude 6.2 hits Southern Iran near Minab.
  • Ban on the Reuters bureau in Tehran lifted.

News from Iran – Week 19 – 2013


Prisoners’ News


  • Saeed Abedini stops hunger strike after his return to 350. – Transferred to Modarres hospital for stomach bleeding then back to Evin.
  • Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Kamran Ayazi, Mohammad and Pouria Ebrahimi, Siamak Ghaderi, Amir Khosro Dalirsani, Saeed Madani, Abdollah Momeni and Mohamad-Hassan Yousefpour-Seifi stopped hunger strike after return to 350.


  • Mohammad Ehiaee workers’ rights activist, arrested at his work place
  • Fardin Ghaderi, Hamed Mahmoudinejad, Shahpour Hosseini, Jalil Mohammadi and Aram Zandi workers’ rights activists arrested in Sanandaj.
  • Mohammad Ghasem-Khani Bahram Saeedi, all workers at Iran Khodro, arrested at work.
  • Baztab news site managing director Ali Ghazali has been reported arrested.
  • Idris Karimi, Adel Moradi and Naaman Manouchehri arrested in Ravansar.
  • Eilghar Moazzenzadeh Azeri poet arrested with his brother Ehsan at their home in Meshkin-Shahr and transferred to Ardebil Intelligence detention center.
  • Baha’i Parisa Shahidi was arrested in a raid of her home. Her husband is imprisoned in Rajaei Shahr.


  • Ali Azad, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Shohreh Azami-Kasaei was freed at the end of her 8 month sentence.
  • Zhinoos Nourani was freed at the end of her 1 year sentence.

Other News

  • Saeed Abedini, Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Kamran Ayazi, Mohammad Ebrahimi, Pouria Ebrahimi, Siamak Ghaderi, Amir Khosro Dalirsani, Saeed Madani, Abdollah Momeni and Mohamad-Hassan Yousefpour-Seifi launched a hunger strike to protest detention in Evin prison solitary after they protested against repressive conditions in Ward 350.

News of injustice in Iran

  • Davoud Alijani, Ahvaz pastor Farhad Sabok-Rouh and Naser Zamen-Dezfouli summoned to serve 1 year sentences in Sepidar prison.
  • Akbar Amini has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and 5 year ban from any political activity.
  • Mohammad Parsi and Pejman Zafarmand both sentenced to 3 years in prison and 5 years ban from any political activity.
  • Ayat Mehrali-Biglou, Shahram Radmehr, Mahmoud Fazli, Behboud Gholizadeh and Latif Hassani, Azeri political activists, sentenced to 9 years in prison.
  • Shahnaz Jayzan, wife of Pastor Sabok-Rouh, summoned to serve her 1 year sentence.
  • Gonabadi Dervish, Mehran Rahbari sentenced to 2 years in prison.
  • 3 public executions in Kermanshah on Monday.
  • 3 executions in Isfahan prison.
  • Flogging sentence carried out in public in Abiek.
  • 3 hangings in Shahroud on Thursday.
  • One hanging in Semnan on Thursday.

University – Culture

  • Internet proxies no longer effective in Iran.
  • Book of former President Rafsanjani banned at Tehran Book Fair.


  • The protest movement started by Kurdish men posting photographs of themselves dressed in women’s clothing in a Facebook campaignBeingawomanisnothumiliatingandshouldnotbeconsideredpunishment – started after police paraded a convicted criminal through the city of Marivan dressed in traditional Kurdish women’s clothing – continues to gain international media attention.

Iran abroad

  • Kenya jails two Iranians for life for plotting attacks.
  • Kuwait upheld a life sentence against 2 Iranians for their role in a pro-Iran espionage network.
  • Houtan Kian receives Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers’ award.
  • FM Salehi meets Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
  • Yusuf Bin Alawi, Omani foreign minister arrives in Tehran.

Iran Economics

  • Iran cuts bread subsidies.
  • Statistical center reports show record inflation in March/April at 38.7%, and inflation over past 12 months at 29.8%.
  • Osve Iran factory closes; 24 workers fired.

Iran Politics

  • Head of the Pharmaceutical Division in the Food and Drug Organization resigns due to shortage of vital drugs, accuses Ahmadinejad government of managerial failure.
  • Raziyeh Omidvar is the first woman in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran to stand as a candidate in the 11th presidential elections..


  • Islamic Dress Code: Compulsory staff uniforms for female employees of Tehran University.
  • Ali Parvin receives AFC Distinguished Service Award.
  • Earthquake strikes port in Hormozgan province.
  • Iran plunges 62 places in quality of life ranking in comparison with other countries over the past five years.

News from Iran – Week 03 – 2013

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Prisoners’ News

A- Transfers


  • Senior Reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani was transferred to Ghezel Hesar.
  • Asadollah Hadi, political prisoner transferred to hospital for heart surgery.
  • Samkoo Khelghati Kurdish political prisoner, transferred from Evin to Rejaei Shahr.
  • 7 Gonabadi Dervish transferred to solitary in ward 209 from ward 350 of Evin prison.


B- Arrests/Incarcerations


  • Lawyer Manizheh Bohlouli arrested in Miyaneh without an arrest warrant.
  • Student activist Amir Chamani arrested to serve his 7 months sentence – 40 lashes sentence enforced in Tabriz prison.
  • Medical furlough extension was denied for cleric blogger Mohammad Hossein Honarvar, he returned to prison
  • Activist Mohammad Khatibi arrested in a raid of his home and taken to Intel detention in Tabriz.
  • Dr. Foad Moghadam, a Baha’i on-line university official reported to Evin to start serving his 5 years sentence.
  • BIHE (Bahai Virtual University) professor Shahin Negari arrested.
  • Azad Rasoolnezhad, teacher and student in international law, arrested in Oshnavieh.
  • Member of Teachers Union, civil activist Mohammad Tavakoli summoned and arrested by Intel in Kermanshah.
  • Baha’i Shakiba Vahdat has been arrested in Tabriz. She was in Intel detention in Babolsar for 2 days earlier this week.



Nasrin Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh reunited with her children after more than 2 years in prison without leave


  • Former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh released on furlough after 10 months hospitalization.
  • Nazanin Dehimi was released from Evin after serving out her 4 months sentence.
  • After 3 years imprisonment political prisoner Hossein Faraji released on a 3 day furlough.
  • Student activist and Advar member Bahareh Hedayat has been released on 700 million toman bail on furlough.
  • Journalist Mohammad Kimiaei released on bail.
  • Student activist Arash Mohammadi has been released on probation from Tabriz prison.
  • Members of Gonabadi Dervishes Kasra Nouri and Saleh Moradi have launched a hunger strike in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.
  • Human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has been released on a 3 day furlough on 300 million toman bail.


D-Other News


  • Political prisoner Esmail Barzegari has started a hunger strike.
  • Imprisoned senior Reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani has been banned from visits.
  • Detained Green leader Mehdi Karoubi’s 10 year old granddaughter has been banned from traveling abroad, passport confiscated.
  • Political prisoner Shir-Ahmad Shirani [who is already very ill with kidney disease] has started a hunger strike.

News of injustice in Iran


  • Volunteers of Sarand Camp helping earthquake victims, were sentenced
    • Behrooz Alavi, 2 years and 3 months imprisonment
    • Mohammad Arjomandirad, 6 months imprisonment
    • Morteza Esmailpour, 6 months imprisonment
    • Danial Hasani, 6 months imprisonment
    • Vahed Kholosi, 2 years imprisonment
    • Ali Mohammadi, 6 months imprisonment
    • Hamid Reza Mosibian, 2 years and 6 months imprisonment
    • Milad Panahipour, 6 months imprisonment
    • Farid Rohani, 6 months imprisonment
    • Seyed Hassan Ronaghi Maleki, 6 months imprisonment
    • Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, 2 years imprisonment
    • Amir Ronasi, 6 months imprisonment
    • Sepehrdad Saheban, 6 months imprisonment
    • Mohammad Amin Salehi, 6 months imprisonment
    • Mohsen Samei, 6 months imprisonment
    • Bahram Shojaei, 2 years imprisonment
    • Mohammad Esmail Soleimanpour, 6 months imprisonment
    • Hooman Taheri, 6 months imprisonment
    • Masoud Vafabakhsh, 6 months imprisonment
    • Shayan Vahdati, 6 months imprisonment.
  • Sentence to execution for young Kurdish activist Reza Mollazadeh confirmed by Supreme Court.
  • One man hanged in Shahrekord on Sunday.
  • One man hanged in Mashhad on Wednesday.
  • One man hanged in public in Sabzevar on Wednesday.
  • Two persons were publicly flogged in Eivanaki on Wednesday.
  • 2 executions in Semnan on Wednesday.
  • 3 public executions in Pakdasht on Thursday.

University – Culture

  • Shokoofeh Derakhshanian, Baha’i, expelled from Tabari University in Babol.
  • Maryam Mirzakhani awarded 2013 Satter Prize in mathematics by American Mathematical Society.
  • Czech Republic rejects Masters students from Iran because of UN nuclear sanctions.


  • Workers from the Khamana textile plant demonstrated in front of the Majlis .

Iran Economics

  • Iran imports 897,000 tons of rice in 9 months.
  • Maserati and Lamborghini pull out of Iran.

Politics in Iran

  • Members of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee will visit Evin and Rejaei Shahr prisons.
  • Grand Ayatollah Sobhani proposes election of president through parliamentary system.
  • Women enter Iran Riot Police.
  • Special units guards and police have surrounded the venue where Gonabadi Dervishes were holding services in Shahrekord.

Iran  abroad

  • KLM to cease flights to Iran in April.
  • Arrests in Spain linked to Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Iranian escalating role in Yemen concerns USA.
  • Canada will resettle up to 5,000 displaced Iraqi and Iranian refugees currently in Turkey by 2018.
  • Syria PM meets Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials in Tehran.


Will #Mali’s new government herald arms or armies?


In less time than it takes for an apartment pineapple to ripen, a new government of national unity has been formed in Mali in the latest effort to restore stability after the military coup in March. It follows 5 long months of political tug-of-war between the ready-meal interim government and the frozen-dinner coup leadership headed by Captain Sanogo. The Captain was persuaded to release his grip a little, after his palms were oiled with a palatial home and “former head of state” status – including a generous allowance. The cabinet has 31 ministers, including five from Sanogo’s camp. The head of the interim government, Cheick Modibo Diarra, stays on as prime minister. For now.

Early-stage pre-coup pineapple during US training

During this incubation period, interim President Dioncounda Traore was attacked, and spent several weeks recovering in Paris. No doubt he spent more of that time in the briefing room of  Boulevard Mortier  than in recovery. Shortly after Dioncounda returned to Mali, one of the former President’s elite Red Beret guards, Staff Sergeant Amadou Traore, was murdered in his barracks. That signal seems to have been received loud and clear; no further attacks on the interim president have been reported yet.

Last month, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened to expel Mali unless a unity government was installed, according to the BBC. Yesterday, there were news reports of ECOWAS and Algeria [ar] barring military shipments to Mali. Meanwhile, Major General Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, Libya’s former Deputy Director of Military Intelligence and Chairman of the Republican Guard in Benghazi, reveals that, when there was a weapons amnesty and surrendering of arms in Libya last year, his unit alone boycotted the deal and instead their weapons passed to mercenaries from Egypt, for onward transfer to AQIM in Algeria and Mali. Doubly painful, as it was the ousted former president Touré, aka “ATT”, who said in February that they needed more military hardware to respond to the MNLA’s attacks, widely reported to be using massive fire-power brought back from Libya.

Weapons in 30 Days or Your Next Government Half Price

We need to wait to see if the formation of a new unity government defrosts the supply of arms, and whether they’ll be delivered by shipment or in person. Just last weekend, Al Jazeera Arabic reported a training exercise in Libya (irony alert) of 2,000 troops including 800 special forces from Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy, in preparation for an incursion into Malian territory. The training programme lasted from February to June. Here’s the video:

There are many competing theories about what is going on in Mali. One school of thought insists that the plan is, and always has been, to get the boots of foreign troops on the ground. However, just as with the reports of armed rebels severing someone’s hand as a punishment for stealing (and the victim later dying), and of their threat-or-promise to repeat the exercise with hundreds more after the Eid holiday, or even of the beheading* that UNHCR’s spokesperson Melissa Fleming claimed to have happened, there’s no way of knowing if the scenario portrayed in this video sheds light on the actual situation.

How can we figure Mali out? To butcher the old standard, “follow the ransom money” and we find food for thought. For example, fresh claims of Swiss support for the rebels appeared last week. This was denied by the MNLA as a rumour created by a Swiss journalist and promoted to a fact by a website in Mauritania, where the media has carved a niche for exclusive revelations about Mali.

I was anticipating more mention of Switzerland, after a Swiss woman was apparently taken hostage in Timbuctu by a private militia who planned to trade her to AQIM. The lady was reportedly “rescued” by Ansar Dine and released for an alleged 1 million Euro, in a deal where they demanded to liaise directly with the Swiss officials, rejecting the offer of a human rights NGO to mediate.  That event was soon followed by a spectacular betrayal of MNLA by Ansar Dine, who hijacked the uprising and forced the secular separatists into a retreat from which they have yet to emerge. Speculation about how the more radical supporters of religion achieved this feat includes the investment of ransom capital to buy supporters. There have been other kidnappings: three Westerners abducted nearly nine months ago by AQIM in Mali, seen today urging their governments to help free them in an Al-Jazeera television exclusive video, and the seven Algerian diplomatic staff taken from the embassy in Gao, three of whom were returned last month, shortly after the release of one Italian and two Spanish hostages. This last exchange was said to be accompanied by a few more million Euro and the release of two more prisoners – one assumed by some to be connected to the POLISARIO – who were being held in Mauritania for their part in the kidnapping of the three Europeans.

Within days Mauritania benefited from a capitulation by the EU (Note: the EU Africa team is led by a Spaniard) finally agreeing to their exorbitant new terms for renewing the fishing agreement, and an agreement from Spain to salvage the small aircraft “donated” to Mauritania in June last year to help in the fight against illegal immigrants, and which had remained, unairworthy and stranded on the tarmac, more or less the whole time.

This brings me to another stranded plane – the famous “Air Cocaine” Boeing jet from South America which landed/crashed just north of Gao in a village called Tarkint at the end of October 2009, and was reportedly torched by the smugglers after their cargo of drugs had been retrieved. The local mayor was known as an intermediary with AQIM for the release of kidnap victims.

The char grilled remains of “Air Cocaine” /JON SISTIAGA

“Air Cocaine” was registered in Saudi Arabia,  rented in Venezuela, and had made previous trips from Colombia  under a licence issued by Guinea Bissau, but which had expired at some point. The drug trafficking was said to be linked to AQIM, and this flight’s cargo could have been worth anything between 150 and 300 million Euro. Some of these details only became apparent much later, after WikiLeaks’ cables release, as the original investigation was handled by the intelligence services and shrouded in secrecy.  There were dozens of arrests, but few detentions or convictions in connection with this scandal. Then last week, we learned that the last two suspects, one French, one Spanish, had been released in Mali. The drug smuggling case against the Spaniard was thrown out.  This chap is a real charmer: a former Madrid policeman, until he was busted for trafficking, drugs, explosives, weapons, and counterfeit identity documents. He also had a suspended sentence in Mali connected to the gruesome murder [es] of a Colombian with a forged Ukrainian passport. He apparently plans to stay in Mali. One would hope he is short of alternatives but why leave Mali, when half the world is ready to come to you?

Additionally, a wealthy businessman from Tilemsi in the Gao region – Mohamed Ould Awaynat – who had been sentenced to one year in prison for his part in the trafficking scandal, was reportedly released in January this year, in an alleged deal with the Malian government. In exchange for his freedom, he is said to have paid to recruit and train northern fighters to boost the ranks of the army against the MNLA. They do say money makes the world go around. If you add massive cash flows from drug trafficking it begins to spin put of control. That is certainly what appears the be the case in Mali.

All these rebel groups in Mali seem like just so many finger puppets. But to which “invisible hand” do the fingers belong?

If you enjoy bizarre details – and you’ve got this far, so I should take that as given – then you might be further entertained by the fact that the article in the previous link, by Andy Morgan in Think Africa Press, was posted on FaceBook in a now lifeless MNLA group, requiring 14 comments to post in its entirety. The comment poster uses the name Ghazi Agizul and, although his bio says he’s a proud Amazigh from Tunisia, I found it odd that “Ghazi” used a translation tool to render the English original into French, which should be a natural language for him. That he didn’t post a link to Google Translate or use a Note instead of 14+ comments is not mysterious, only irritating. If it transpired that Andy Morgan and Ghazi Agizul were one and the same person, that would be interesting. It would also raise many general questions about the clandestine online and offline activities of certain people who present themselves publicly as working in the media, but that is a whole other story. Going back to the article itself, it’s too lengthy to analyse in depth but there are some factual errors, which always has the effect of eroding credibility. For example,  Mr Morgan claims to have spent years in northern Mali, yet placed Kati near Timbuktu. I wouldn’t blame him if the article was simply too long for him to cope with when it got to proof-reading.

Also in the WikiLeaked cable, we learn of another incident involving a plane:  US military making a “hard landing” 65 miles from Bamako, and receiving assistance. ATT was happy to help because “he knew the United States was coming to help Mali”. Sadly, nothing could be done to help the three US military and their three civilian companions who died in a vehicle accident in April this year. Will the US be coming to help again; will they feel they no longer need an invite?

Short of the IAEA declaring that there are nuclear weapons hidden in the barren wastelands of northern Mali, I wonder how many more UN agencies or NGOs can enter the fray, wringing their collective hands over the many unverified domestic dramas that they claim are engulfing this most coveted of would-be war zones, declaring every incident a war crime, and clamouring at the gates to be allowed in to rescue Mali from itself and the horrors of Sharia law’s unjust desserts.

As ATT noted in February, with a prescience we have yet to fully to appreciate: “There are many rumors. If we are not careful, we’ll fall into the hands of those who are attacking Mali and who want to oppose the government.”

*I assume Ms Fleming meant to say “stoning” – but there is no solid evidence of that having happened, either. If she did witness a beheading, I’d have liked her to verify in reply to my question, especially since her bio includes the phrase “Tweets highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience I witness every day.” [my emphasis].

Related Posts

Message from 3 Western hostages in #Mali. Better late than never


I wonder how long Mauritanian Arabic news website Sahara Medias had this video before they uploaded it to YouTube? The hostages were kidnapped in Timbuktu last  November, they hold letters with a date written in big, visible writing on each envelope saying “23 01 2012” but the video was only released on 13 July 2012, just at the same time 7 Algerian diplomats are released.

Mali hostages say treated well in first message

Three hostages kidnapped by al Qaeda militants in northern Mali last year said they were in good health and being treated well in their first video message seen by Reuters on Friday.

The three men from South Africa, the Netherlands and Sweden were seized on November 25 by gunmen who killed a fourth person as the group walked along a street in the northern Mali town of Timbuktu.

The kidnapping happened weeks before a mix of secular and Islamist rebels, some with links to al Qaeda, took up arms against Mali’s government. The insurgents later took advantage of the chaos surrounding a March coup to take control of the country’s desert north.

In the 53-second film posted on video sharing website YouTube, the Dutch citizen appeared alone inside what looked like a mud hut and spoke first. He held an envelope with the date “29.01.2012” written on it.

AQIM hostage Sjaak Rijke, Netherlands

“I am Sjaak Rijke. I am from the Netherlands. I am with al-Qaeda and I’m being treated well. I received this letter from the Netherlands today,” he said in the video.

The film then cut to the South African and the Swedish men, in an outside location, surrounded by four gunmen armed with AK-47s. The two held separate envelopes marked “28.01.2012”.

AQIM hostages Stephen Malcolm of South Africa and Sweden’s Johan Gustafsson

“My name is Stephen Malcolm. I’m with al Qaeda. Today I received this letter from my country. I’m in good health and they are treating me well,” the South African said next in the video. Sweden’s Johan Gustafsson made a similar statement.

All three men spoke in front of a flag similar to one used by Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine which, along with al Qaeda faction MUJWA, now control two-thirds of Mali’s desert north, territory that includes Timbuktu.

Al Qaeda in North Africa said in December it carried out the kidnapping. It has also said it was holding six Frenchmen, two abducted from their hotel in the northern Mali town of Hombori two days before the Timbuktu kidnapping.

Another four were kidnapped in September 2010 in neighbouring Niger. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday the six were alive, but had been separated.