Trials begin in Iran for many arrested in opposition protests

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 1, 2009 

CAIRO, Egypt — More than 100 leading opposition activists stood trial in Iran on Saturday, the first since the government's crackdown in the violent aftermath of June's disputed presidential election, according to Iranian state media.

The charges against the defendants — among them former senior members of government and veteran lawmakers — include participating in riots, acting against national security, disturbing public order, attacking government and public property, and associating with armed opposition groups, according to Iran's semi-official news services.

The reports didn't specify when a verdict could be expected. More than 2,500 Iranians were detained in mass arrests after incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the June 12 election. Opposition supporters claim that the vote was rigged and that reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi really won.

All but a few hundred of the detainees have been released, authorities have told news agencies. As tales of torture and forced confessions emerge, Iranian and international human rights advocates have set up petitions and Web sites to demand the release of all "political prisoners."

Opposition Web sites and blogs have carried accounts by recently released detainees who described abuse, horrific conditions and threats of execution. Human Rights Watch also collected stories from recent detainees and found that "Iranian authorities are using prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threat of torture to extract false confessions," according to a July report.

Under mounting pressure over the detentions, especially after the son of a prominent conservative was said to have died in prison, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed down one prison and freed at least 140 detainees.

State media reported that the defendants on trial include former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi; former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh; former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh; former vice speaker of parliament Behzad Nabavi; and Mohsen Mirdamadi, the leader of the largest reformist party in Iran.

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