Iran’s show trial

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ImageNew York Times – Editorial: Iran made a big show this week of inaugurating President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a stolen second term.

The New York Times

Editorial

ImageIran made a big show this week of inaugurating President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a stolen second term. If the hard-line mullahs, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s most important constituency, hoped it would demonstrate self-confidence and control, they were wrong. There are too many other reminders of the regime’s illegitimacy.

Start with the mass trial of 100 government critics detained after the June 12 election brought on widespread protests. The group includes senior pro-reform politicians, lawyers and journalists. Among them is a reporter for Newsweek, Maziar Bahari.

The proceeding is clearly aimed at intimidating an opposition movement that has shown surprising resilience in the face of government attacks. Mr. Bahari and other defendants have not been able to speak with their lawyers; their families were not notified when the trial would commence.

Authorities did not even bother to charge them with legitimate crimes. The full indictment has not been released. But according to Human Rights Watch, it accused the defendants of attempting a “velvet coup” without charging them with specific violations of Iranian law. Who was behind this bogus “velvet coup”? The indictment names the women’s rights movement, ethnic groups, human rights groups, the labor movement, nongovernmental organizations and students — in other words, a broad swath of civil society.

We were especially alarmed that some of those charged — including Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president; Muhammad Atrianfar, a journalist and former Interior Ministry official; and Mr. Bahari — have been shown on television reciting humiliating, and almost certainly coerced, “confessions” in which they denounced former colleagues and declared that there had been no fraud in the election.

Despite a worsening crackdown, government critics have refused to go quietly. Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s most prominent opponents, including the former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, stayed away from Wednesday’s inauguration. And there were still scattered street protests, despite an unusually strong police presence.

For all of this week’s public shows, Iran’s leaders are determined to hide the truth of what is happening in the country. Rights groups say 40 journalists have been detained since the election. The Iranian people have not been fooled. More abuse, lies and intimidation are only likely to feed their anger and the world’s revulsion.

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