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Student Denies Charges As Iran Protest Trial Resumes


The swift trials of protesters may be intended as a warning to the pro-reform opposition not to stage similar rallies on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

The swift trials of protesters may be intended as a warning to the pro-reform opposition not to stage similar rallies on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A 20-year old university student arrested for participating in antigovernment street protests in Iran in December rejected charges of spreading moral corruption as the trial of 16 opposition supporters resumed today.

All of the accused were arrested after clashes between protesters and security forces on Ashura Day, the Shi'ite ritual mourning ceremony, on December 27.

Eight people died in what was the most violent unrest since last year's disputed presidential election brought President Mahmud Ahmadinejad back to power.

Five of the defendants, including the university student, were charged on January 30 with the capital offense of "moharebeh" (waging war against God). The remainder were accused of public-order and national-security offenses, a court website said.

One of the defendants was born in Manchester, England, and has British nationality, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"I do not think taking to the street means spreading corruption," the student told the court, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency. The defendant's lawyer called for the charges to be dropped and said his client, whose name and gender were not provided, had no criminal record.

Street protests that followed the presidential poll in June plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the shah.

On January 28, Iran hanged two men convicted of moharebeh over the unrest and a conservative cleric on January 29 urged that more opposition protesters be executed.

Fars reported that additional arrests had been made in connection with the Ashura unrest, taking the total number of opposition protesters detained in the aftermath of the December 27 protest to more than 450.

The swift trials of protesters may be intended as a warning to the pro-reform opposition not to stage similar rallies on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

"We are getting close to the revolution day...," Mehdi Karrubi, one of the defeated reformist candidates in the June vote, said on his website "Sahamnews" today.

"Suppression, mass detentions...holding show trials and heavy convictions are not appropriate ways to curb what has happened and still going on in the country," he said.

Opposition backers have seized on dates marked in the Islamic revolutionary calendar to revive the protests, defying arrests and crackdowns by the hard-line leadership.

Iran's moderate opposition says the June election was rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad. The government denies any fraud.

Thousands of people, including senior reformers, were detained after the poll for fomenting unrest. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years and five have been sentenced to death.
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