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Iran Tries 2nd Group Accused of Overthrow Plot

Prosecutors said the United States has used exchange programs for artists and academics, support for terrorist groups and a monitoring post based in the U.S. mission in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in its efforts to bring about the velvet revolution.

During the Bush administration, Iran "listening posts" were set up in the Emirates, Turkey and other countries and were manned by Farsi-speaking Iran experts from the State Department.

To support their allegations, Iranian officials often point to a $400 million budget for covert operations passed by Congress in 2008.

Britain "became active as the information arm of the United States and Israel in order to fill the gap of them not being present in Iran," the prosecutor said.

The defendants Saturday included Hossein Rassam, an Iranian employee at the British Embassy who was charged with espionage.

"We gathered information and news so that the British government would have a better understanding of Iran to adopt and implement its policies," Rassam said in a speech broadcast live on state television. He was allowed to return home after the session.

Britain expressed outrage at the charge against Rassam, saying it "directly contradicts assurances we had been given repeatedly by senior Iranian officials," the Associated Press reported.

French national Clotilde Reiss, who was arrested at the airport in Tehran after participating in rallies, issued a short statement asking for clemency, Fars reported.

"I have written a one-page report and submitted it to an official at the cultural department of the French Embassy who was not a diplomat," she was quoted as saying in fluent Farsi. "I should not have taken part in illegal protests. . . . I regret my activities and I apologize to the Iranian nation and the court. I hope they will pardon me."

In a sign that members of Iran's judiciary might be divided over the court case, national prosecutor general Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi said the judiciary had called for the release of Saeed Hajjarian, a supporter of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi who became disabled after an assassination attempt in 2000.

"Following a visit last week by our brothers to Hajjarian, his condition was relatively good, but we still advise that he be kept in his own house," Dori-Najafabadi said, according to Fars.

Others have been more straightforward.

"This court is unacceptable," said Saleh Nikbakht, a lawyer defending former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi and Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari, whose alleged confession was televised last week.

Nikbakht said he has not been allowed to meet with his clients or see their files.

"Holding sessions without the presence of the accused's lawyer and also before the investigation process has been completed is illegal," Nikbakht said. "I don't know how many more sessions there will be. Anything seems possible at this point."


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