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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Iranian blogger in the doghouse

From Radio Free Europe:
November 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian authorities have detained a blogger after he published details about the reported use of bomb-sniffing dogs in President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's security detail.

The Persian-language website gooya.com says Reza Valizadeh was the object of a complaint from the president's office. He was detained on November 26, but his whereabouts are unknown. Iran's judiciary has neither confirmed nor denied Valizadeh's arrest.

Valizadeh wrote on his blog that Ahmadinejad's security staff purchased four dogs in Germany for 150 million toumans each (about $150,000).

He reported that the canines were deployed to sniff out possible explosives on November 14, before Ahmadinejad's appearance at an annual press exhibition. The sweep left exhibition visitors standing outside the venue for several hours.

He also said the price of the dogs and their appearance in public evoked surprise and criticism. Some strict Shi'ite interpretations of the Koran regard dogs as unclean, and dog ownership is controversial in Shi'a-dominated Iran.

The British daily "The Guardian" reported on November 20 that the use of dogs in the protection of an Iranian head of state could be unprecedented in the 28-year history of Iran's Islamic republic.

Valizadeh quoted an unnamed official as saying the decision to deploy the bomb-sniffing dogs was made by the security team, and was outside the authority of the president.

Valizadeh's arrest comes two days after dozens of Iranian journalists and intellectuals issued a statement to protest the jailing of journalists who are critical of the Iranian government.