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Americas

Leading reformists, British embassy staffer to face trial, lawyer says

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-11-16

Several reformist former government officials, a Newsweek reporter and a British embassy worker face trial for allegedly "acting against national security" during Iran's post-election violence, their lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht (pictured), tells AFP.

AFP - Iran is considering pressing charges against a British embassy staffer, a Newsweek journalist and several reformist leaders, lawyers said on Saturday, as the regime intensifies its crackdown on protests over last month's presidential election.
   
The accused include key figures from reformist 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami who oversaw a thaw in relations with the West. They are all held suspected of "acting against national security," the lawyers said.
   

Any prosecutions would spark a new downturn in Tehran's relations with the West. On Friday, European Union governments already called in Iranian envoys across the 27-nation bloc in protest at the detention of British embassy staff.
   
Lawyer Abolsamad Khorramshahi said he was seeking permission to see detained embassy political analyst Hossein Rassam after being told by his family of the accusations against him.
   
"I have not met with him yet, but I will ask the judiciary for an appointment," Khorramshahi told AFP. "I was told by a close relative that he is accused of acting against national security."
   
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was "urgently seeking clarification" from Iran after a senior official said that some locally recruited staff of the British embassy would stand trial.
   
A total of nine local staff at London's embassy in Tehran were initially arrested late last month, but the British government said seven have since been released.
   
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardians Council -- the powerful watchdog body that upheld hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection in the disputed June 12 vote -- charged on Friday that embassy staff had instigated the post-election protests and that some would face prosecution.
   
A second lawyer acting for Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari and a number of reformist leaders said he too had so far been unable to see his clients.
   
"Bahari is accused of acting against national security, and I still have not been able to meet him despite going to the prosecutor's office several times," Saleh Nikbakht told AFP.
   
Nikbakht said he is also representing former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Amizadeh, ex-government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, former deputy economy minister Mohsen Safai-Farahani and former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, all of whom served under Khatami.
   
Behzad Nabavi, former deputy speaker of parliament between 2000 and 2004 when it was reformist-controlled, is another of his clients.
   
"I was not able to see any of them, and Safai-Farahani and Nabavi have not been able to contact their families either," Nikbakht said.
   
"Any kind of interview and confession by these people who are being held in prison is invalid under the law and the Iranian constitution," he added.
   
Less than a week ago, the Fars news agency reported an "interview" with Bahari, in which he said that he had filed "unreal and biased reports from Iran which were driven by greed."
   
Newsweek's Middle East editor, Christopher Dickey, said he was unaware of charges being pressed against the journalist.
   
"Our understanding is that Maziar Bahari may be under suspicion of acting against national security but that no formal legal charges have been levelled againt him," he told AFP.
   
Scores of journalists and reformist politicians were arrested following Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, which triggered mass protests and charges of fraud.
   
On Saturday, a leading hardline daily called for Ahmadinejad's leading challenger, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who decribed the election as a "shameful fraud," to be tried for treason, along with Khatami.
   
The Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Mousavi of "killing innocent people, inciting riots, hiring thugs to assault people, evident cooperation with foreigners and playing the part of US fifth column."
   
"Mousavi and Khatami should account for these horrendous crimes and evident treason in an open tribunal," it added.
 

Date created : 2009-07-04

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