Iran puts 'rioters' on trial

The trial of a group of people accused of rioting after the controversial re-election in June of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president began on Saturday at a revolutionary court in Tehran.

Their prosecution in a revolutionary court comes as Ahmadinejad, who is due to be sworn in on August 5, sought to ease political tensions by denying any rift with the country’s all-powerful supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The official Irna news agency said the trial of a group of “rioters” had begun, but it did not specify the exact number of those in the dock.

Iranian news networks said earlier that about 30 people accused of rioting in the aftermath of Ahmadinejad’s re-election were to face prosecution from Saturday.

Media reports say the accused face charges of having “participated in riots, acting against national security, disturbing public order, vandalising public and government property and having ties with counter-revolutionary groups.”

The post-election violence, mainly in Tehran, left around 30 people dead and hundreds wounded, Iranian officials said.

Irna said according to prosecuters those on trial include people whose photographs were taken while “committing the crimes”.

“Some of their accomplices are on the run but they will be surely identified by our dear people and handed over to the law,” the agency said.

Following the June 12 vote—which opposition leaders say was rigged—up to 2 000 protesters, political activists, reformists and journalists were arrested as hundreds of thousands of people rallied to challenge the results.

Most detainees have been released but around 250 remain behind bars and their continued imprisonment has become a rallying cry for the anti-Ahmadinejad movement.

The Islamic republic is mired in the worst political crisis in its 30-year existence as the opposition led by former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi refuses to acknowledge Ahmadinejad’s victory and demands a rerun of the poll.

On Thursday, thousands of protesters clashed with police at a cemetery and in central Tehran as they marked the 40th day since the June 20 death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman whose killing during a protest has come to symbolise the anti-Ahmadinejad movement.

Iran has pointed the finger at foreign governments, accusing them of complicity in crimes and killings during the post-election unrest.

On Friday, a fresh anti-West salvo was fired by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

“Western and European countries, with their overt and covert capabilities, interfered in Iran’s election ... the worst among them being Britain,” he was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster’s website.

“The countries who interfered through their television networks by telling how to instigate riots, build explosives and other tension creating activities are accomplices in all the committed crimes, murders and are held responsible.”

The crisis has further deepened after a series of controversial decisions by Ahmadinejad weakened his standing among his own hardline supporters at a time when he faces stiff opposition from the reformists.

Hardliners lashed out at Ahmadinejad after he appointed a controversial aide as his first deputy and was tardy in firing him despite an order from Khamenei to do so.

The delay in sacking Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, an outspoken politician who last year enraged hardliners by saying Iran was a friend of Israeli people, has angered the conservative wing of the regime who warned him to obey Khamenei.

The hardline camp was further irked when Ahmadinejad sacked intelligence minister Ghoman Hossein Mohseni Ejeie following a reported “quarrel” over Rahim Mashaie’s appointment.

But Ahmadinejad, in an attempt to win their support back, denied on Friday there was any rift between him and Khamenei.

He called his relationship with the all-powerful supreme leader similar to that of “father and son”.

“The kind of relation between the supreme leader and me goes beyond political and administrative forms. It is made of love, belief and is like father and son,” Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

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