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Iran State TV Suggests Neda's Iconic Death Was 'Faked'


A screen grab from the YouTube video appearing to show men attending to Neda in Tehran on June 20.
Iranian state television has made a documentary about the death of Neda Agha Soltan, a young Iranian woman who was shot dead during the June postelection protests in Tehran, suggesting she was an agent of the United States and Britain who staged her own death.

Neda's last moments were filmed on a cell phone and watched by millions of people around the world, becoming a symbol of democratic resistance to the regime.

The state-television documentary suggests the video of Neda's dying moments merely depicted her pouring blood on her own face from a special bottle she was carrying. Later, the documentary alleges that 27-year-old Neda was shot dead in the car that was taking her to a hospital.

The conspiracy theory alleged in the documentary is in line with comments by Iranian officials, who have repeatedly described Neda's death as "suspicious" and a "premeditated scenario" to defame Iran.

The state reaction was prompted by the immense impact of a grainy amateur video shot as Neda participated in a June 20 protest in Tehran.

Neda and tens of thousands of fellow opposition supporters had gathered in downtown Tehran in defiance of an official ban on the mass protests that followed the country's June 12 presidential election, which was handed to incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad by a landslide.

At least 10 people were reported killed and more than 100 were wounded that day after security forces cracked down on the protesters, but it was the unforgettable image of Neda's death that struck a chord both at home and abroad.

The video, which was posted on youTube, was watched by millions of people around the world. Within hours, Neda became an icon of a protest movement that has plunged the Islamic republic into its worse-ever crisis.

The name "Neda" has become universally recognized, as have the pictures of her that are now displayed proudly during rallies of the opposition Green Movement, whose members have vowed to keep her memory alive.

Neda's death has also proven to be a very sensitive issue for the Islamic establishment.

The state television documentary was featured in a January 5 report broadcast by PressTV, Iran television's international English-language news network.

Neda is portrayed in the documentary as a foreign agent who became the victim of a plot orchestrated by foreigners and opposition supporters.

Doctor Accused Of Conspiracy

The documentary alleges that Arash Hejazi, the writer and physician who treated Neda as she lay bleeding on a Tehran street, as well as her music teacher who was with her at the protest, were members of a team that carried out the plot.

"While Neda is [pretending] she is injured and is lying on the back seat of the car on their lap, they bring out a handgun from their pockets," the documentary's narrator says.

"A handgun that they obtained from their Western and Iranian friends to water the tree of reforms and kill people and create divisions within society. Neda, for a moment, realizes their wicked plan and struggles to escape, but they quickly shoot her from behind."

The narrator adds that this is how "deceived and deceitful" Neda was killed.

Hejazi, who has been accused by Iranian hardliners of being Neda's murderer, has denied being in the car that took her body to a Tehran hospital.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL from Britain, where he lives, Hejazi describes the documentary as a shameful and worthless attempt to cover up the truth and place the blame for Neda's death on others.

"A young innocent woman was shot dead while protesting. Since her killing, until today, the Iranian government has been doing all it can to distance itself from it and throw the responsibility on others, instead of acting responsibly and dealing with those who are guilty," Hejazi says.

Basiji Link

Hejazi has said he believes that Neda was shot in the chest by a member of the Basiji militia who was among the crowd of protesters.

Hejazi has claimed that the Basiji member was detained by the crowd, who took away his ID card. The identification card of the alleged shooter, with his name and picture, was posted on opposition websites.

Although Hejazi has publically identified the man as the one who was caught by the crowd and disarmed, Iranian judiciary officials have reportedly failed to launch legal action against him.

Since Neda's death some six months ago, authorities have come up with different theories about the circumstances of her death.

On January 6, Iran's ambassador to Bahrain, Hossein Amir Abdullahyan, told "The Nation" that groups from Britain and the United States infiltrated the opposition movement and carried out assassinations among its ranks.

Abdullahyan went on to allege that the groups were behind the killing of Neda -- and he didn't stop there. He also said they were responsible for the death of Ali Musavi -- the 35-year-old nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi who was killed during rallies on December 27 in which eight protesters died.

Hejazi says Tehran's stories about the circumstances of Neda's death keep changing.

"Their first reaction was that she was alive. Then they said the footage was fake. One day they said a BBC reporter killed her. Then they said it was the CIA. Then they said the [Mujahedin] Khalq Organization [MKO] was behind it. The latest is this documentary," Hejazi says.

Iranian state media have said the documentary presents "another side" of Neda's death, and challenges claims made by "Western media."

It says its findings are based on "forensic evidence and statements by security officials" that shows that Neda was not killed, as "shown by Western media."

Hejazi says Neda's death has become a thorn in the side of Iranian authorities due to the international attention it received, helping to mobilize global public opinion against the crackdown in Iran.

Neda's fiance, Caspian Makan, who was detained for a while before leaving Iran, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda this week that her image carved into her tombstone had been vandalized.

Makan accused those who arrest, torture, and kill innocent protesters of damaging her grave, concluding: "What the regime of the Islamic republic did to Neda's tombstone is like shooting her again."

Radio Farda broadcaster Hossein Ghavimi contributed to this report