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Former Iranian Official Who Blogged in Protest Offers Different View From Prison

Former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi offered a confession at a trial session last month. The opposition says such confessions are being coerced.
Former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi offered a confession at a trial session last month. The opposition says such confessions are being coerced. (Stringer/iran - Reuters)

Abtahi has also focused his blog on the softer side of prison life. He gets to watch television. He is allowed dinner with another detainee. One of the pictures on the site shows him smiling, appearing happy in his cell.

For his cooperation, Abtahi has apparently been rewarded. On Monday, he was allowed to visit his family and participate in ceremonies surrounding Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Iranian officials say they are pleased by Abtahi's apparent change of heart.

"In prison, where he became acquainted with the truth, he is now propagating the truth and thinking freely," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, media adviser to Ahmadinejad. He said the former vice president had shown courage by sharing his new views with his readers. "He is now enlightening people. We are happy about that," Javanfekr said.

The blog, at http://www.webneveshteha.com/en, was abruptly taken offline Tuesday by its host in the United Kingdom. It was not clear why.

The government has recently shown a willingness to give favorable treatment to detainees who confess. Some defendants have been freed on bail, after having given public confessions damaging to former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. In the meantime, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has indicated he does not favor prosecuting Mousavi and Karroubi, an action that some hard-liners had advocated. Taken together, the moves suggest that the government crackdown on the opposition may be easing.

The newspaper Javan, which is considered close to intelligence officials, reported Wednesday that all defendants who publicly confess may be released Sept. 20, when Ramadan ends. Some prominent political figures, including opposition party leader Behzad Nabavi and civil society advocate Mostafa Tajzadeh, have refused to confess and will remain in prison, the paper reported.

Opposition parties have said repeatedly that the confessions were made under duress, and they have called the trials kangaroo courts. "In ideological and political cases in Iran, most of the time there is no evidence," said Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer who was released last week after 75 days in prison. "Pressure is exerted on the defendants, and their words are used to convict them and others."

But Ahmadinejad and his supporters among the Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, Friday prayer leaders and lawmakers say the confessions prove that the defeated presidential candidates masterminded the post-election unrest.

"We must thank the sons of the Revolution, the intelligence ministry and Revolutionary Guards," said Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi, the supreme leader's representative in the elite Guard Corps, according to the Khabaronline Web site. "With their humane and Islamic actions, they managed in a short time to force these perverts to confess their wrong beliefs."


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