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Iran threatens jail time for critics of hearings

Mon., Aug. 3, 2009, midnight

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Court warned Sunday that those criticizing its ongoing proceedings against post-election protesters could face jail time themselves.

The threat came after a chorus of reformists and even some political conservatives labeled as a sham the televised court hearing Saturday of about 100 defendants arrested in the unrest that followed the disputed June 12 presidential election in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner.

Iran’s main opposition figure and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, two former presidents and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guard voiced strong criticism of the proceedings, in which prominent moderate politicians and others stand accused of conspiring with the West to foment weeks of unrest across Iran.

Mousavi said the confessions “showed signs of medieval torture,” and he termed the trial a “sham” meant to distract attention from allegations of vote-rigging that continue to dog Ahmadinejad as his Wednesday inauguration to a second term nears. Mousavi and many other prominent Iranians have vowed to skip the swearing-in ceremony.

Mousavi predicted the confessions would backfire.

“Our people show sympathy to their children whose faces they saw after 50 days of no news,” he said in a statement carried by his Web site,

Defendants could face jail terms of 10 years if convicted.

The nation is bracing for further confrontations between supporters of Mousavi and security forces this week with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s parliament set to confirm Ahmadinejad.

Iranian authorities have charged a number of former officials, journalists and scholars, including Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbaksh, of masterminding the unrest. The charges of acting against national security appear to rest largely on confessions extracted from suspects detained for weeks in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel or their families.

Former Iran President Mohammad Khatami denounced the proceedings as a “show trial.”

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