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Iran To Try Five People Over Recent Unrest

A government supporter holds a poster with a picture of opposition leaders Mehdi Karrubi (left) and Mir Hossein Musavi during a demonstration in Tehran on December 30.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran will try five people arrested in connection with riots last month, the worst violence in the Islamic republic since protests erupted over the presidential election in June, the official news agency IRNA said.

The report, citing a statement by Tehran's Revolutionary Court, did not identify the detainees or the date of their trials but the charge of "moharebeh" -- an Islamic term meaning warring against God -- carries the death sentence.

Eight people were killed in December 27 clashes between security forces and supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi on Shi'ite ritual day of Ashura.

More than 40 reformist figures, including four advisers to Musavi, have since been arrested.

Hard-line clerics and authorities have called on the judiciary to punish opposition leaders for igniting tension in Iran, saying they were "mohareb" (enemies of God).

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi reiterated government accusations that foreign elements were behind the protests, the daily "Etemad" reported today.

"According to information obtained by the intelligence ministry, both rioters and anti-revolutionary figures have some links with the enemies of the country and the [Islamic] system," Moslehi was quoted as saying.

The Intelligence Ministry said this week several foreigners were among those arrested over the Ashura day violence, the worst unrest since the aftermath of the disputed June 12 election victory of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

"The current political environment is the worst in the past 30 years," Mehdi Karrubi, who was defeated along with Musavi in the vote, said in a meeting with political activists, opposition website "Rahesabz" said.

A European diplomat was among those arrested but released due to diplomatic protocols, lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

"A European diplomat was among those who were detained during the unrest on Ashura Day, but because of the Vienna Convention he was released after 24 hours," he said.

The unrest that erupted after the June vote is the biggest in the Islamic state's 30-year history. Authorities deny opposition charges that voting was rigged.

The stakes are high because Ahmadinejad has championed a nuclear energy policy that has led the country, a major oil producer, into conflict with the West, bringing United Nations sanctions to bear on a stretched economy.

Iran rejects U.S. charges that it plans to develop nuclear weapons, saying its program is aimed at producing electricity.