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Iran begins trial of postelection ‘rioters’

ADDITION Mideast Iran Election
Opposition political activists and protesters stood trial in Tehran Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran's state media reported.AP
/ Source: news services

More than 100 opposition political activists and protesters stood trial in Tehran Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring to topple the ruling system in the country's first trial since the disputed presidential election, Iran's state media reported.

The official IRNA news agency said the charges against the defendants included attacking military and government buildings and having links with armed opposition groups.

This is the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that dozens of senior officials, including former ministers, vice-presidents and lawmakers, have been put on trial.

Iran's opposition maintains President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the June 12 vote from opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi by engaging in massive fraud.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in days of street protests after the election, but demonstrations have been ruthlessly suppressed, leaving hundreds in prison. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has endorsed Ahmadinejad's re-election.

'Velvet Revolution'
IRNA quoted the indictment as saying the charges against the defendants also included acting against national security by planning unrest and participating in the "Velvet Revolution."

"The trial of some of those accused of being involved in post-election unrest started this morning," IRNA said. "Some 100 people were put on trial in a Tehran Revolutionary court."

Under Iran's Islamic law, acting against national security, a common charge against dissenting voices in Iran, could be punishable by the death penalty.

Iran's hard-liners have drawn parallels between Mousavi's campaign and the "velvet revolution" — an allusion to the peaceful overthrow of the communist government in the former Czechoslovakia.

State television showed footage of the courtroom with many young defendants, some handcuffed, and vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh and former MP Mohsen Mirdamadi in prison uniform.

On trial are also prominent members of Iran's leading moderate parties, founded by former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Both are backers of Mousavi.

"No fraud"
The indictment said: "These parties planned, organized and led the illegal gatherings and riots," IRNA reported.

"The Participation front had contacts with a British spy," the agency said, referring to Islamic Iran's Participation Front, the main pro-reform party set up by Khatami.

Iran accuses Western countries, particularly Britain and the United States, of supporting "rioters." The West denies it.

Hard-line semi-official Fars news agency said at least four prominent reformers now said that the vote was not rigged.

"Former vice-presidents Mohammad Ali Abtahi and Mohsen Safai-Farahani, former Industries Minister Behzad Nabavi, (Iranian-Canadian journalist) Maziar Bahari and former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh have confessed that the issue of fraud in the Iran vote was baseless," Fars reported.

Bahari, who came to Iran to cover the vote for Newsweek, has said that he took cash from Britain's Channel Four television for sending footage of unrest, Fars said, adding he had told reporters that foreign media were involved in the unrest.

Fars also said detained Iranian photographers Majid Saeedi, who worked for Getty Images, and Satiar Emami had said they sold pictures of "riots" to British and French media.

IRNA said Kian Tajbakhsh, a U.S. citizen who in 2007 was accused of spying and detained for four months, was among those who were tried on Saturday for being involved in the unrest. Tajbakhsh was detained in early July in Tehran.

"The post-election developments were planned from a year ago by Americans," Tajbakhsh told IRNA after the trial.

Iran released on Tuesday 140 detained protesters with "minor charges" from Tehran's Evin prison, 250 others remained in jail.

More on: Mir Hossein Mousavi