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Abtahi’s Confessions and Frightening the Opposition - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Those who doubt the morality of the Iranian government do not need to disprove government claims these days, particularly with regards to the ridiculous televised confessions that state television transmitted last weekend. There is no need for this because the credibility of the authority has been completely shattered not only as a result of vote-rigging [in the last presidential elections] but also because of a recent series of events in which official statements and news came to resemble a wretched comedy.

Mohammed Ali Abtahi, a close associate of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and a leading figure within the Reformist movement since the beginning of the crisis, was detained. Nobody was allowed to visit him or know anything about his condition until he appeared in a quick trial with other defendants who were also thrown in jail. We all know that nobody usually believes any confessions that are extracted whilst in jail; in fact people feel sorry for the prisoner. The jailor becomes the criminal and the prisoner becomes the victim.

For this reason, regardless of what Abtahi says and admits to now, his words should not be accepted. The man is being threatened with capital punishment with the aim of terrifying him and forcing him to make confessions the government wants to hear and spread. Abtahi had to choose between facing capital punishment and confessing, telling the authority what it wants to hear. The usual result is confession; Abtahi knows that his colleagues will pardon him for this and will defend him no matter what he says that might discredit them and might bring them to account later.

Abtahi is an intellectual who Arabs got to know better than other Iranian officials, as he spoke Arabic and took part in [Arab] symposiums. We knew him as one of the strongest defenders of the Iranian regime and its policies; this is not strange, as he is part of the regime just like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Rafsanjani; the Green Revolution leaders in Tehran.

The regime is fully aware that none of its opponents will believe the story of Abtahi’s confessions. It simply wants to scare them all. The message it is trying to send to them is that it will put them all in jail, torture them and get them to make false televised confessions. It is a battle between an armed party and a defenceless one. It is a battle on a chessboard that is soon to finish. The opposition defied the authority with demonstrations, and the authority openly committed murders and arrested demonstrators and admitted to doing this. The opposition raised legal complaints through parliament and was successful. The authority reacted by holding public trials only a few days before Ahmadinejad’s inauguration amid a frightening atmosphere in Tehran.

The Iranian regime has tightened its grip on its opponents and has given them limited options; either to continue defying the regime and probably be tried for treason, or to back off and accept Ahmadinejad as a ruler and end the revolution. This means that we have gone even further than murdering demonstrators in the streets to the stage of executing senior officials and assassinating opposition figures. This was the significance of the trial, which came as no surprise and was rather expected for weeks, following a number of comments about the alleged confessions of Abtahi.

Therefore, the authorities do not want to convince the people of the Abtahi’s confessions, but to convince the opposition that the regime is serious about confronting the opposition under any circumstances and that it no longer fears Iranian or international public opinion.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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