Sunday, April 15, 2007

Show Trials In Iran

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

With much of its' international critics distracted by the recent hostage situation, as well as their ongoing nuclear adventure, Iran's government has begun repressing the political opposition again.

As part of a wider crackdown, Iran's parliament has also passed laws enabling security organisations - including the Revolutionary Guard, which was responsible for kidnapping the 15 Britons - to detain suspects for months for the purposes of interrogation.

Police are also reportedly planning to tackle more low-level dissent, including standards of public attire. Women who fail to cover their hair fully, or who wear skirts or coats considered immodestly short, are expected to be among the first targets in the next few days.

Some western diplomats are sceptical about the credentials of the reformists, regarding them as only slightly more moderate than Ahmadinejad's hardliners, though they enjoyed more freedom under the previous presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who held the post from 1997 to 2005.

According to some in the Iranian opposition, reformists are being given court sentences in order to disqualify them from running for parliament, with many predicting a pattern of show trials:

"They want to have a sword above our head and the rest is excuses," he said. "The main issue here is that in the coming year we have the parliamentary elections. Because rejecting reformist candidates in the previous election created problems for the judiciary, they are taking a different route this time."

Rather than risk further international criticism for an overt clampdown on opponents, he said the government was using the courts to neuter them.

"What they want to do is to put the reformists in court now, and sentence them for any reason. If they have a court record, they will automatically be barred from standing for election," he said.

"The hardliners desperately want to see the back of the reformists and have proved that they are willing to use any kind of tactic to achieve their goal."

Amir Taheri, an exiled Iranian journalist based in Europe, said the regime was preparing show trials for scores of dissidents.

"It seems to be setting the stage for show trials that recall the worst days of Stalinism in the Soviet Union," he said.

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