By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 17, 2009
TEHRAN, Aug. 16 -- Iranian authorities put on trial Sunday a group of demonstrators who said they were directed by campaign officials of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi to destroy public property in the chaotic aftermath of the June 12 election.
The arrested demonstrators made their statements, which could become part of a case against Mousavi if he is arrested, in the third session of a mass trial of politicians, journalists and academics. There has been widespread criticism of the confessions, which many government opponents say are coerced.
"The main goal of the recent trials is aimed at proving a baseless illusion," Mousavi said Saturday during a meeting with doctors, the ILNA news agency reported. He said the "basic rights" of the defendants were violated during the trial. Unlike at other sessions, some attorneys were present Sunday.
Most of the 28 who appeared in the docket Sunday, one of whom was a member of Iran's Jewish minority, said they were fooled by opposition politicians, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, working to form his new government, told state television Sunday that he would propose three female ministers for his cabinet, the first time women have been nominated for such a position since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
He named Marzieh Vahid Dastgerdi, a 50-year-old gynecologist, as health minister and Fatemeh Ajorlu, a 43-year-old lawmaker, as minister of welfare and social security. He did not name the third but said he would nominate at least one more female minister to the cabinet, which will be announced Wednesday.
Revolutionary Guard Corps generals, top politicians and senior clerics have blamed the post-election protests on Mousavi and another defeated candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, and last week called for their arrest and punishment. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians protested after the vote, which official results showed was an Ahmadinejad landslide but which opponents say was stolen.
The opposition leaders themselves are not on trial, but the indictments and confessions of their supporters have singled them out as organizers behind what Ahmadinejad allies call a foreign-backed plot to remove Iran's leaders from power.
In Sunday's court session, a series of confessions linked Mousavi directly to the unrest.
"You claimed fraud and made a deviation by not accepting the law and breaking it," said Mehrdad Gholamreza Aslani, a 22-year-old who was put on trial for sending a text message to the BBC and participating in unrest, according to Fars. "You caused people who voted for you to come to the streets and disrupt public discipline and do something that made the leader of the revolution sad."
State television, which broadcast the confessions, censored Mousavi's name so that only the letter "M" could be heard when Aslani and others made the accusations against the defeated candidate.
TV also showed parts of the indictments and video clips of city buses, banks and mosques set on fire. There were no images of the clampdown on the protests by authorities.
"Me and my friends in prison have reached the conclusion that we were misled and became the tools of some political elite and parties," Aslani said. "Election fraud became a code word for riots. Right here I want to admit my mistakes and ask for forgiveness from the supreme leader and the people."
"I didn't even participate in the elections. I wasn't even in Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign headquarters," said Yahotil Sha'oolian, 19. State television named the Jewish man a "member of a religious minority" and said he was accused of throwing stones at a bank two days after the election.
The Jewish representative in the parliament, Siamak Mere Sedegh, said religion did not play a role in the court case. "In recent events, over 3,000 people were arrested. One of them was Jewish, that is not really a big deal. We are part of this nation and whatever happens to the Iranian people also happens to us," he said.
Mousavi repeated his plans for the formation of a movement, which he called the Green Path of Hope. It will demand the full implementation of the country's constitution and will have "autonomous and spontaneous social networks," he said.
The protests against Ahmadinejad's victory have been losing steam in the face of a widespread crackdown that has included arrests, restrictions on media coverage and bans on public gatherings.