- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TEHRAN | One of Iran’s most prominent pro-reform figures admitted fomenting unrest and asked for the country’s forgiveness Tuesday during the mass trial of activists detained in the postelection crackdown in a confession the opposition said was coerced.

The courtroom statement by Saeed Hajjarian - who is considered one of the reform movement’s top architects and who was shot in the head in a 2000 assassination attempt - was the latest dramatic confession in the month-old trial that the opposition has compared to Joseph Stalin’s “show trials” of opponents in the Soviet Union.

More than 100 defendants are on trial, accused of trying to overthrow Iran’s clerical leadership in a “velvet revolution” by fomenting huge protests over the disputed June 12 presidential election, which the opposition says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.

Among the defendants who appeared Tuesday was Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American academic. The prosecutor read out charges against him including espionage, contact with foreign elements and acting against national security. Speaking before the court, Mr. Tajbakhsh appeared to try to speak broadly about foreign interference in Iran, saying “undeniably this was a goal of the U.S. and European countries to bring change inside Iran” and that “the root cause of the riots are found outside the borders.”

But he added that “since I’ve had no contacts with any headquarters inside and outside the country, I have no evidence to prove foreign interference,” according to the state news agency IRNA.

Another defendant showed a rare degree of defiance of the court. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said he opposed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government and rejects the court’s indictment. “As a reformer, my position is clear,” said Mr. Ramezanzadeh, a prominent figure in the same reform party as Mr. Hajjarian. “I’ve put forward my views in my speeches and I won’t change my views.”

Dozens of relatives of some of the defendants protested outside the court building during the session until they were forcefully dispersed by police and plainclothes pro-government vigilantes, the pro-opposition Web site Norooz reported.

Mr. Hajjarian’s political party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, dismissed his confession as forced and vowed their support for him. “What is uttered from their tongue today is not their will,” it said in a statement, referring to Mr. Hajjarian and other party leaders who confessed Tuesday.

Mr. Hajjarian was one of the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and over the next decade served as a top intelligence official. In the 1990s he became a critic of the clerical leadership.

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