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Iran Begins Another Mass Trial Over Postelection Turmoil

The latest trial is the third mass prosecution of people allegedly involved in the postelection unrest.
Some 25 people have gone on trial in a Tehran revolutionary court over their alleged involvement in provoking the unrest that erupted after the disputed June 12 presidential election.

The identities of the protesters and opposition supporters were not disclosed as the trial opened on August 16. They are the third such group to face prosecution in a mass trial since the postelection unrest.

According to the IRNA new agency, some of the detainees were accused of moving toward overthrowing the Islamic system, participating in illegal demonstrations, vandalizing public property, and using handmade bombs and grenades during the protests.

The proceedings have been criticized by Iranian opposition and the international community as “show trials.”

Over 110 people, including many political activists, journalists, and lawyers, have appeared in two previous court trials, most of them facing charges such as acting against national security.

Several prominent reformists, including Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and a close associate of former President Mohammad Khatami, and Mohsen Mirdamadi, the head of the largest pro-reform party, the Islamic Participation Front, were among detainees tried by the revolutionary court in the earlier mass trials.

Hundreds of protesters and political activists remain in prison, and according to relatives and lawyers, many of them have not yet been charged.

In a separate development on August 16, Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old French teacher who also appeared in the dock last week on charged related to the postelection unrest, has been released on bail and turned over to the French Embassy in Tehran. However, the charges against Reiss have yet to be dropped.

Claims Of Abuse

Iranian opposition leaders say some detainees have been beaten up and raped in prison, a claim denied by authorities.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer who represents imprisoned pro-reformist journalist Isa Saharkhiz, said his client was beaten in detention, and is being held in solitary confinement.

Saharkhiz “told me that he has been severely beaten up to that extent that his ribs were broken,” Sotoudeh said. “Despite the fact that you can easily feel his broken ribs by merely touching them, he has been denied any kind of medical treatment. In addition to that, no charges were brought against him during the past one month, although according to the law a detainee has to be charged within 24 hours after being arrested.”

Shiva Nazar Ahari, a student activist, was detained shortly after the street demonstrations began in Iran against the election results.

She has been sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and has been denied access to lawyer or her family.

Nazar Ahari’s mother, Shahrzad Karimiyan, said that in the past 20 days she has not even been allowed to make a phone call to her family.

“During the past two months – or 62 days since my daughter was arrested – I wasn’t given permission to meet her. I had asked Evin prison officials six times to allow me to see her,” Karimiyan said. “Each time I was told my daughter does not have permission for such meetings. In the past 20 days I’ve had no information at all about her condition. Now they don’t allow us to speak on the phone.”

Mazyar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian reporter, is one of many journalists imprisoned during the post-election unrest. His lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told Radio Farda that since the journalist’s arrest nearly two months ago, he has not been permitted to meet with his client, who faces “vague charges of acting against national security.”

“Most of detainees were charged with acting against national security. And they denied the charges,” Nikbakht said. “There are some 15 or 16 specific accusations that come under the broad charge of ‘acting against national security.’”

“Accusations of spreading propaganda against the Iranian system, which is punishable by six months to one year in prison, to collaborating with enemy states and similar actions that are punishable by death -- they all come under the general charge of acting against national security. And it is unclear what exactly Mazyar is being accused of,” his lawyer said.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against contested elections results that secured a second term in office for hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

At least 30 people were killed during the demonstrations.

According to Iranian official figures, more than 3,000 people were arrested in connection with the postelection street protests.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda contributed to this report
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.