Twenty people will face trial from Saturday in Iran for their alleged participation in big post-electoral protests in June. Charges include sending pictures to enemy media and vandalising property. Tehran freed 140 protesters on Tuesday.
AFP - Iran plans to put on trial about 20 people accused of rioting in the aftermath of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as the embattled president came under fire again on Wednesday from hardliners over a series of controversial political decisions.
The official IRNA news agency reported said the 20 "rioters" would go on trial from Saturday on charges including bombings, carrying firearms and grenades, attacking Basij militiamen and security forces and having contacts with exiled opposition group the People's Mujahedeen.
"They are also charged with attacking military units and universities, sending pictures to enemy media, organising thugs and rioters, vandalising public and state property including destroying banks and houses," it said.
However, Iran prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi also announced that a "considerable" number of protesters would be freed by end of the Iranian week on Friday.
The news comes a day after authorities freed 140 protesters, while about 200 remain behind bars, including 50 suspected of masterminding riots, according to an MP who visited detainees on Tuesday.
The moves are being seen as gestures to the opposition movement which has branded Ahmadinejad's re-election a fraud and protested over the subsequent crackdown on demonstrators and political activists.
However, the authorities are continuing to ban opposition gatherings and have refused to issue a permit for a planned mourning ceremony in Tehran on Thursday.
Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi ordered on Monday officials to decide on the fate of protesters within a week, while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself told Shahrudi to release them by August 7 -- the birth anniversary of Imam Mahdi, a revered Shiite saint.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also this week ordered the closure of a jail holding detainees as it was "not up to required standards."
Amid the mounting political tensions, Ahmadinejad came under fire again on Wednesday from his own hardline supporters who warned him to obey Khamenei or face the consequences.
The president's standing has been weakened even within his own camp, forcing him into a humiliating climbdown over a political appointment that was blocked by Khamenei.
"One should not hesitate in implementing the leader's order," hardline cleric and vocal Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Khatami was quoted as saying by the Resalat newspaper.
Ahmadinejad's post-election troubles stemmed from his choice of a controversial aide as his first deputy and his tardiness in terminating the appointment despite a written order from Khamenei.
He also sacked Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie reportedly after a quarrel over the delay in dismissing Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as first vice president, further irking the powerful conservative wing.
"Mr Ahmadinejad must apologise to people," said the front-page headline of Yalesarat, a hardline weekly newspaper.
"You have preferred to pour your love on someone like Mashaie than the leader. Mr Ahmadinejad, if this attitude continues, we want you to return our votes," it said in an editorial.
Another harsh warning came from prominent conservative group the Islamic Society of Engineers.
"The people's continued support for you depends on your unconditional obedience of the supreme leader and departing from this path will have consequences," it said in a letter to Ahmadinejad published on Tuesday.
"It seems you did not consider your best interests by appointing Mr Mashaie as your chief of staff."
Mashaie, who provoked controversy last year for saying Iran was a friend of the Israeli people, subsequently stood down after Khamenei's order but was immediately appointed as the president's chief of staff.
In another slap in the face for Ahmadinejad, 210 of the country's 290 MPs signed a statement on Tuesday praising Ejeie and saying he had passed a "great test" in defending Khamenei.
But in a rather sarcastic column, the reformist Etemad Melli newspaper said the hardliners must "support and cooperate with the president who you say won the people's vote in a clean and lawful race!"
Khamenei had staunchly defended Ahmadinejad's re-election in the June 12 poll in the face of massive public demonstrations that set off the worst crisis in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic.
About 30 people were killed and many scores wounded in the unrest, while the authorities initially rounded up several thousand protesters, reformists and journalists.
Date created : 2009-07-29