TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Six opposition activists, including a former student leader, stood trial Monday in Tehran on charges of rioting and plotting a “velvet revolution” to topple the ruling Islamic system.
The hearing is the latest session of a mass trial that began Aug. 1 of more than 100 opposition supporters on accusations of plotting to overthrow the clerical leadership through protests over the disputed June 12 presidential election.
The trial of Abdollah Momeni and five others is part of government’s efforts to choke off a persistent protest movement by Iranians who claim President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election involved massive vote fraud.
While dozens of activists and protesters were tried in previous sessions, state television said only six activists were in the dock Monday and this time around the trials were not broadcast.
The television said the Monday indictment against the six defendants focused on “spreading false reports via Internet to provoke unrest.”
The official IRNA news agency quoted Momeni as pleading guilty to the charges and asking for “Islamic mercy.”
“I don’t consider my political activities defensible. I apologize to the Iranian nation and request Islamic mercy from the court,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Momeni, according to IRNA, admitted to the court that the June 12 election was an excuse to damage the pillars of the ruling system, create rifts, promote the idea of fraud in the elections and encourage people to take to streets against the government.
He is also quoted as saying that he used Internet and satellite TV channels to promote that message.
Iran’s reformist and moderate parties have denounced the trials, describing them as “disgusting” and a “ridiculous show” and saying that confessions are obtained under duress like in Josef Stalin’s notorious “show trials” in 1930s Soviet Union.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in days of street protests after the election, denouncing official results that declared Ahmadinejad the winner.
Security forces, including the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia, crushed the massive protests in a heavy crackdown in which thousands were arrested.
Hard-liners in the leadership paint the entire reform movement as a tool of foreign enemies bent on overthrowing the cleric-led Islamic Republic. The opposition counters that the ruling system — beyond just Ahmadinejad’s elected government — is losing its religious and political legitimacy because of the harshness of the postelection crackdown.
Defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi have dismissed the government as “illegitimate” and have vowed to confront the ruling system by exposing reports that detained protesters were raped by their jailers.
The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed while Iranian officials have maintained only 36 died in the post election turmoil — Iran’s worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities released Ali Reza Beheshti, a top Mousavi aide, Sunday, days after he was detained along several other pro-reform activists.
Beheshti’s arrest was part of an intensified crackdown by security agents against opposition offices tracking reports of abuse from released protesters. Beheshti is the son of the late Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, a prominent figure from the 1979 revolution and one of the architects of the Islamic Republic.
Hasan Khomeini, grandson of founder of the Islamic Republic the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, met Beheshti at his home immediately after his release, in a snub of the ruling system.