TEHRAN, Iran – More than 100 political activists and protesters went on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring to topple the ruling regime in the turmoil surrounding Iran’s presidential election, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
The defendants included several prominent politicians – former members of parliament, first-generation revolutionaries and an ex-vice president – who have been locked in a decades-long power struggle with Iran’s hard-line clerics and Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Wearing gray prison uniforms and appearing thin after weeks in jail, some defendants gave lengthy confessions, saying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the disputed June election free of fraud.
Only state media were allowed to attend the closed trial.
Supporters of the accused denied the allegations and said the confessions were given under pressure.
“Those who organized this trial should be tried,” said Emad Afroogh, a former supporter of Ahmadinejad, according to the Fararoo.ir news Web site.
The detailed allegations against the politicians, most of whom support the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, are the beginning of an attempt to purge the political system, analysts say. If convicted, the dissidents’ parties could be declared illegal and their backers labeled anti-revolutionaries.
Tehran’s deputy prosecutor, Abdolreza Mohabbati, said the allegations centered on a confession by a “spy for the Central Intelligence Agency who had recently returned to execute the plan for unrest.”
The unnamed spy accused the pro-Mousavi politicians of executing a yearlong plot to bring about a velvet revolution, according to the indictment, which was published in full by Fars news.
Mohabbati accused the United States and other countries of masterminding the effort. He alleged that several U.S. organizations, including the Soros Institute, Freedom House and Stanford University, financed and instructed pro-Mousavi politicians in order to bring down the country’s leadership.
To support his case, Mohabbati cited the confessions obtained from the detainees, who have been in jail for weeks without any contact with lawyers. He constructed a narrative in which dozens of incidents, including meetings with British agents, were linked to plans for a velvet revolution.
The defendants on Saturday included two photographers, Majid Saeedi of U.S.-based Getty Images and Satyar Emami of the French photo agency Sipa. They were accused of working without permits during the clashes.
Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari, who was arrested on June 21, also appeared in court Saturday. At a press conference later in the day, he expressed regret for his actions.
“On behalf of myself and my press colleagues, I apologize to Iran’s great nation and supreme leader of the Islamic Revolution for doing harm to the country,” he said.