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Iran: Dissidents Appear In Closed Trial

Tehran, 8 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Fifteen Iranian dissidents went on trial today in Tehran accused of plotting against the Islamic state. The trial of the dissidents, mostly writers and university professors, is being held behind closed doors. The defendants were among dozens of people rounded up by police in several sweeps last year. Several of them have been kept in a military prison.

A lawyer for five of the 15 said today that he has protested against the closed-door format of the proceedings. Abdol Fattah Solatani said that today's hearing consisted of the reading of the lengthy charges brought against the defendants.

The defendants have been accused of a variety of charges, including acting against state security and plotting to overthrow the Islamic republic.

Lawyers for the defendants say they were not been given access to details of the charges in the run-up to the trial.

Iranian reformers and international human rights organizations, the defendants, and their families have demanded an open trial. As today's hearings began, some 50 people protested outside the courtroom against the secret trials.

Meanwhile, other reports from Iran say the head of the Iranian provincial reformist weekly "Lorestan" was sent to jail and his weekly newspaper banned on 6 January.

Abbas Dalvand was imprisoned after being earlier sentenced to nine months for insulting the Islamic institutions and spreading lies. He was barred from working in an editorial capacity for three years following complaints by Iranian conservative institutions, including the Guardians Council, Revolutionary Guards, and security forces.

Since last April, 21 dailies and around 30 periodicals have been suspended and roughly 15 journalists imprisoned.