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

5.4       The Fourth Mass Show Trial

The fourth mass show trial was held on August 25. Again, a general indictment was read that accused several individuals and organizations of planning a “velvet coup.”[631] Beyond laying out a case against American-Iranian academic Kian Tajbakhsh, it singled out the Participation Front and the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, two reformist parties, as detrimental and illegal.

The indictment quotes alleged confessions by members of the central committees of these parties, including denials of the veracity of statements issued by the parties that were then used by the prosecution to show why they should no longer be allowed to be active.

A party which, after spending considerable amount of time and consulting with its central council members, has a written strategy that is completely perverse, to the point that even its most loyal central council members have such [negative] judgment about it and deny these diversions with such honesty, is clearly no longer qualified to be active. Especially since the party has caused considerable damage to the country by putting to action this strategy.[632]

The evidence and arguments presented in this indictment are very similar to those in the first indictment. Many are simply repeated, without any substantial changes.[633] However, possibly in response to criticism of the trials, the prosecution emphasized that it did not wish to outlaw what it considered perverse thoughts:

We do not want to punish individuals or parties due to their perverse thoughts, and if we are mentioning these examples and asking for a legal action, it is because these unholy thoughts were acted upon and caused serious damage to the Iranian nation. In fact, these perverse beliefs are the root of many of the bitter incidents and riots of the last years.[634]

 

The Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization is accused of causing riots by publishing critical statements regarding the fairness of the election, and the prosecution is content to cite their statements as evidence of their crimes.

The statement dated June 14, 2009, that was published after the result of the 10th presidential election, is another evidence of the organization’s role in creating crisis and inciting turmoil in public minds in order to create doubt about the election’s fairness and destroy the legitimacy of the regime. Part of the statement states: “What happened in this election, in addition to the widespread and unprecedented fraud, was the ultimate abuse of all possible resources to produce and create votes.”[635]

During the trial session, the opinions and beliefs of the accused were juxtaposed with those of a Basij who was allegedly injured at a demonstration and who declared himself “ready to be sacrificed for the regime and the superior leadership.”[636] The reading of the indictment was followed by Saeed Shariati’s reading of the confession and defense of Saeed Hajjarian, the member of the central committee of the Islamic Participation Front, who was unable to read his own confession due to his disabled condition.[637] The prosecution also petitioned the court to dissolve and outlaw the Participation Front, a reformist political party.[638]

5.5       The Fifth Mass Show Trial

Some changes were noticeable at the fifth mass show trial on September 15. Only six defendants were tried and most of them—having been released on bail—wore personal clothes and were represented by counsel of their choice.[639] Journalists from news organizations that had heretofore been denied access to the proceedings were allowed to attend the fifth court session,[640] and Judge Salavati reminded all news outlets that under Article 188 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, reporters are not allowed to publish the names of the accused.[641]

Deputy prosecutor Ahmad Ali Akbari read yet another general indictment that focused on foreign soft power, including the use of the Internet.[642] This indictment, like those before, addressed and defended the actions by the Judiciary. By this date, allegations of mistreatment and rape of detainees had surfaced, and the prosecution took this opportunity to claim that these “false reports” were part of the “psychological warfare and destructive propaganda … by internal and external enemies.”[643]

The prosecution recycled many of the arguments from the second indictment against popular internet sites. It noted that “25 million Iranian users use the networking site Facebook and have been able to contact 200 million people in cyberspace.” It made clear that this was not a positive development since individuals and groups allegedly used these technologies to agitate and spread negative messages.[644]

Following reading of the indictment, confessions and individual indictments were presented that were in agreement with the general indictment.[645] While reading student leader Abdollah Momeni’s individual indictment, the deputy prosecutor noted that “The accused has confessed that the election was an excuse for disruptive actions and attacks on the pillars of the system.” Momeni—in custody for over four months—confessed to spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and distributing false statements aimed at acting against national security.[646] State media reported that he had refused legal counsel and quoted him as saying: “I admit that I have made huge mistakes, and my political activities and behavior caused mistrust and pessimism about the system among the youth, particularly among students.”[647]

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