About 100 Iranian activists and political moderates went on trial
Saturday to face charges related to massive protests following the
controversial presidential election. The semi-official Fars news agency
published images of defendants sitting in a packed Tehran courtroom,
some handcuffed in pairs.
Former reformist vice president
Mohammad Ali Abtahi took the witness stand Saturday in a trial that is
accusing key opposition figures of plotting to overthrow the government
and fomenting violence.
Abtahi looked almost unrecognizable
after having spent over a month in prison. He was dressed in gray
pajamas and slippers as he took the witness stand.
Iranian TV said Abtahi admitted that opposition claims that the presidential elections had been rigged were "lies."
Fars news agency reported that Abtahi denounced former presidents
Mohammed Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for trying to "take
revenge on [incumbent President Mahmoud] Ahmedinejad and the Supreme
Leader [Ali Khamenei]."
Fars also reported that 100 defendants
were on trial, showing pictures of them in the front rows of a packed
courtroom, with police guards around them.
Iran analyst Mehrdad
Khonsari of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies,
argues that Saturday's trials are intended to frighten reformists into
backing down in their challenge of the government:
and parcel of the regime's strategy to intimidate and scare the public
into inaction and to use these trials as staging points for warning the
elites within Iranian society not to get involved in any kind of
activity aimed at discrediting or delegitimizing the government," he
said. "The people who have been arrested, I think, will ultimately have
to be set free, but the idea is to threaten them with a sentence that
they would not necessarily implement, that would deter them from any
further defiance of the state."
Despite the Iranian government's
attempts to force opposition leaders leaders to back down, Khonsari
thinks that the opposition movement "remains robust."
group Human Rights Watch says some prominent lawyers were arrested over
the past weeks to prevent them from representing activists in court.
The group says authorities have used harsh interrogations and beatings in an effort to extract false confessions from detainees.
to Fars, some of the major politicians appearing in court Saturday are
former parliament vice speaker Behzad Nabavi and former government
spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh. The full list of defendants is not