- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

TEHRAN | Iran expanded its mass trial of opposition supporters Sunday, adding 25 more defendants, including a Jewish teenager, who are accused of involvement in unrest over the disputed presidential election.

The turmoil that erupted after the opposition declared the June 12 vote a fraud has weakened President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and called his legitimacy into question. Nevertheless, he pushed ahead with preparations for his next term by announcing he will nominate three women to join his new Cabinet. If confirmed, they would be Iran’s first female ministers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The addition of defendants, which brought the total number to 135, defied international condemnation of the trial that many view as a sham. The U.S. labeled it a “show trial” last week, and Mr. Ahmadinejad fired back with a thinly veiled criticism of President Obama.

“The excellency who talks about change made a big mistake when he openly interfered in Iran’s domestic issues,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told a group of clerics Sunday, according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

The defendants in the trial include a former Iranian vice president and other former senior government officials linked to the country’s pro-reform movement; French and Iranian-American academics; employees of the British and French embassies; and an Iranian-Canadian reporter for Newsweek magazine. They are charged with plotting a “soft revolution” against the Islamic theocracy, and some have made public confessions that the opposition says were coerced.

The trial and official acknowledgments that some detainees have been abused in prison have only added to anger among opposition supporters and some conservatives over the treatment of protesters.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to visit Iran in the coming days after his country intervened last week to help France win the release of one of the defendants, an Iranian-French employee in its Tehran embassy. France is also hoping to win the release of 24-year-old Clotilde Reiss, a French academic who was among defendants who made public confessions.

One of the new defendants belongs to Iran’s tiny Jewish community. Yaghoghil Shaolian, 19, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying he was not an activist and did not even vote. But he said he just got carried away and threw some stones at a bank branch in central Tehran, resulting in his arrest.

Iran’s sole Jewish parliamentarian, Siamak Mereh Sedq, confirmed the detention of Mr. Shaolian and his Jewish identity to the Associated Press. He said the detention was not connected to his religion.

“He is innocent. We hope to see his release soon based on Islamic mercy,” he said.

Mr. Shaolian’s trial represents the first time a Jew has been tried in Iran since 2000, when 13 Jews were charged with spying for Israel. Iran is home to 25,000 Jews, the largest such community in the Middle East outside Israel.

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