TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran will try five people arrested in connection with riots last month, the worst violence in the Islamic republic since protests erupted over the presidential election in June, the official news agency IRNA said on Thursday.
The report, citing a statement by Tehran’s revolutionary Court, did not identify the detainees or the date of their trials but the charge of ‘moharebeh’ — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — carries the death sentence.
Eight people were killed in Dec. 27 clashes between security forces and supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi on Shi’ite ritual day of Ashura. More than 40 reformist figures, including four advisers to Mousavi, have since been arrested.
Hardline clerics and authorities have called on the judiciary to punish opposition leaders for igniting tension in Iran, saying they were ‘mohareb’ (enemies of God).
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi reiterated government accusations that foreign elements were behind the protests, the daily Etemad reported on Thursday. “According to information obtained by the intelligence ministry, both rioters and anti-revolutionary figures have some links with the enemies of the country and the (Islamic) system,” Moslehi was quoted as saying.
The Intelligence Ministry said this week several foreigners were among those arrested over the Ashura day violence, the worst unrest since the aftermath of the disputed June 12 election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “The current political environment is the worst in the past 30 years,” Mehdi Karoubi, who was defeated along with Mousavi in the vote, said in a meeting with political activists, opposition website Rahesabz said.
The unrest that erupted after the June vote is the biggest in the Islamic state’s 30-year history. Authorities deny opposition charges that voting was rigged.
The stakes are high because Ahmadinejad has championed a nuclear energy policy that has led the country, a major oil producer, into conflict with the West, bringing United Nations sanctions to bear on a stretched economy.
Iran rejects U.S. charges that it plans to develop nuclear weapons, saying its programme is aimed at producing electricity.