- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

TEHRAN | A young French academic and local staff members of the British and French embassies stood trial Saturday with dozens of Iranian opposition figures and confessed to being involved in the country’s post-election unrest.

Iran’s opposition and rights groups have condemned the trial as a sham and say such confessions are coerced and scripted. Britain, which seemed caught off guard by the appearance of its embassy employee, called it an outrage, while France demanded the immediate release of its citizen.

Saturday’s second hearing at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court focused on testimony from the French academic and the two other foreign-linked defendants, demonstrating the government’s resolve to taint Iran’s pro-reform movement as a tool of foreign countries - particularly Britain and the United States.

The French Embassy employee, Nazak Afshar, cried as she admitted she was involved in post-election disturbances. “Brothers at the Intelligence Ministry,” she said, “made me understand my mistake,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

French academic Clotilde Reiss, 24, who was reportedly arrested July 1 at Tehran’s airport, told the court that she made a mistake by attending a demonstration, according to IRNA.

Such confessions have become the centerpiece of Iran’s mass trial of more than 100 prominent opposition figures and activists, which began a week ago.

The defendants are accused of crimes including rioting, spying and plotting to overthrow the regime during the massive street demonstrations denouncing the official results of the June 12 election.

The prosecutor read out an indictment at Saturday’s session that accuses Britain and the U.S. of planning to rouse the unrest with the aim of toppling Iran’s Islamic rulers through a “soft overthrow,” IRNA reported. The indictment also accused the two powers of providing financial assistance to Iran’s reformists to undermine hard-line ruling clerics.

Hossein Rassam, a political analyst at the British Embassy who was arrested shortly after the election, told the court that Britain was involved in fomenting the unrest, according to IRNA.

He said a budget of about $500,000 had been allocated to establish contacts with Iranian political groups, influential individuals and activists, IRNA reported.

The news agency quoted him as saying that he established contacts before the election with the campaign headquarters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the pro-reform candidate who says he was robbed of victory through fraud.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband condemned the trial and said the British government had raised the matter with the Iranian ambassador in London and Iran’s deputy foreign minister.

Mr. Miliband said the trial of Mr. Rassam and other embassy staff members “only brings further discredit to the Iranian regime.”

Eight other British Embassy staffers arrested along with Mr. Rassam were released after about a week in custody.

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