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Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran

5.2       The Second Mass Show Trial

Thirty defendants, including three women, were present at the second show trial on August 8.[607] The prosecution presented alleged members of terrorist organizations including the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and a little known royalist group called Anjoman-e Padeshahi (Royalist Society).[608] The prosecution read out the indictment which accuses foreign citizens, media and governments, as well as domestic groups with fomenting a “velvet coup.”[609]

The first section of the indictment alleges that foreign governments, particularly the United States and Britain, are attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic using “soft overthrow, which was groomed and presented to the public as ‘public diplomacy.’”[610] Examples listed include:


  1. Providing aid and assistance to NGOs and publishing Persian-language materials about the values of democracy and supporting civil activities;
  2. Training journalists and reporters in order to establish news services with the aim of gathering and analyzing information;
  3. Training and mobilizing human rights activists in Iran in order to depict a grim picture of the regime;
  4. Creating websites and trainings about the election and providing complete information on the 1388 [2009] presidential candidates;
  5. Dispatching students, artists and people in trade outside the country in order to form a cadre of potential individuals for key positions in the future.[611]   

The indictment charges British embassy employees with illegally attending meetings of supporters of the opposition candidates.[612] Employees allegedly confessed that they were asked to attend and report on the events as they unfolded.[613] It also charges Clotilde Reiss, the French instructor at Isfahan University, of the crime of documentation and gathering intelligence.[614]

The second indictment names media and information technology as tools used by foreign powers to promote a “soft overthrow” in Iran. For example, Facebook is number fourteen on the list of the alleged interventionist actions of the U.S.

14.  Strengthening the activities of the American company Facebook in order to facilitate access between Iranian users and those in other countries concerning Iran. Claiming that many people around the world use Facebook to exchange information about the fate of the Iranian election, this company launched its trial program in the Persian language so as to allow Persian speaking users to take advantage of it in their mother tongue.[615] 

Western countries are also accused of maintaining and opening means of communications including offering software for viewing clips of the riots with low-speed access and providing anti-filter programs to circumvent restrictions in Iran.

The alleged role of the BBC is singled out. It is accused of preparing for 24-hour coverage on election day and interviewing “problematic individuals/dissidents within the country to transmit minute-by-minute reporting of the news and events.”[616] The indictment also accuses the Western media, particularly BBC Persian and Voice of America with encouraging and inciting disturbances.

The indictment purports to describe the unlawful activities of opposition groups, separatist and ethnocentric groups, and “anti-revolutionary terrorist groups” in the events following the elections. Targeted groups include the Freedom Movement, the Committee to Defend Free, Healthy and Fair Election (and its leader Kayvan Samimi), the MEK,[617] and royalist groups, particularly the Royalist Society. Three alleged members of this Society, living outside of Iran, are listed. The alleged “first line” who reside in Iran are listed as Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, Ahmad Karimi, Hamed Rouhinejad, Arash Rahmanipour and Amir Reza Arefi. The indictment notes that the involvement of each individual in the “recent uproar is noted in their indictments which will be declared in due course.”[618]

5.3       The Third Mass Show Trial

During the third court session held on August 16, several defendants were presented with their individual indictments. Mostly accused of demonstration-related crimes including resisting security forces, spreading images of events and acts of vandalism,[619] none of these defendants were prominent reformist leaders or well-known activists.[620] Still, the third general indictment presented once again a larger conspiracy that was allegedly planned years before the election.[621]

The third indictment, dated August 15, is much shorter than the initial two. It is directed at what the prosecution identifies as “rioters and vandals” who participated in what it considered the post-election “riots.”[622] The individuals targeted by the indictment are described as mere pawns who were influenced by foreign satellite channels.[623]

By mid-August, when the third session was held, the show trials and use of confessions by the prosecution had been criticized by Iranians.[624] Thus, the prosecution took the opportunity to defend the “legal and logical principles” supporting its accusations. In a general manner, it again cited the confessions, the similarity between the “velvet revolutions” around the world and pre-election statements by candidates and reformists as undeniable evidence that they are agents of the “velvet revolution.”[625]

During the hearing, the reading of the indictment by Deputy Prosecutor Mehdi Sepehri was followed by a short video that showed alleged demonstrators destroying public property.[626] The general indictment and the video both point to the Lolagar Mosque on Azadi Street, which was set on fire.[627]

The video was followed by the reading of eleven individual indictments. This left an impression that the defendants were accused of setting fire to the mosque or that evidence would be presented regarding this act of vandalism. However, none of the defendants was accused of this crime. The defendants were permitted to make statements. One, Hossein Ezami, was surprised to find that his individual indictment assured the court that he had explicitly confessed to destroying public property. In his statement, he noted that he had not only refused to confess but had denied such acts during his interrogation.[628]

The prosecution failed to present reliable evidence supporting is allegations. Majid Moqimi was accused of destruction of public property, acting against national security and propaganda against the state. Yet, the only evidence presented against him was his admission that he attended a demonstration and took pictures of injured people that he had not published.[629] Mohammad Farahani, was accused of attending six illegal demonstrations, but three of the demonstrations cited by the prosecution were reformist events held before the election.[630]

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