TEHRAN, Iran – Saeed Hajjarian was a die-hard hero of Iran’s reform movement, campaigning to reduce the power of the Islamic clerics even after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt that left him partially paralyzed.
On Tuesday, he was brought into a courtroom propped up by men who put him in the front row of defendants in Iran’s biggest political trial in decades, where he proceeded to renounce his entire career as a reformist.
His speech slurred and nearly unintelligible from the 2000 attack, Hajjarian had a statement read proclaiming that Iran’s supreme leader represents the rule of God on Earth and asking for forgiveness for his “incorrect” ideas.
The stunning confession was among the most dramatic in the trial of more than 100 reform leaders and protesters arrested in Iran’s post-election crackdown – testimony the opposition says was coerced by threats and mistreatment during weeks of solitary confinement.
A procession of the biggest names in the reform movement has taken the stand during the past month, some looking thin and tired, all dressed in blue pajama-like prison uniforms and slippers. They have confessed to taking part in what the government says was a plot backed by foreign enemies to overthrow Iran’s clerical leadership in a “velvet revolution.”
The opposition has compared the proceedings to Josef Stalin’s “show trials” against his opponents in the Soviet Union, saying the government is trying to wipe out the reform movement.
In a statement read by a fellow defendant in court Tuesday, Hajjarian confessed to trying to spread “Marxist thought” that “has no relation to Iran.” He said he had led astray his political party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, with his ideas and announced his resignation from the party.
He threw his support behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose rule “springs from the rule of the Prophet Muhammad.”
“I’ve committed grave mistakes by offering incorrect analysis during the election,” Hajjarian said. “I apologize to the dear Iranian nation because of my incorrect analysis that was the basis for many wrong actions.”
The Islamic Iran Participation Front dismissed the confessions by Hajjarian and other party leaders as forced, saying: “What is uttered from their tongue today is not by their will.”
The 55-year-old Hajjarian was arrested soon after mass protests erupted over the disputed June 12 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets claiming that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was fraudulent.