The confession machine: see full-size Radio Zamaneh cartoon here.
Clashes mark second day — Clashes erupted outside Tehran’s revolutionary court today as a fresh tranche of defendants was wheeled into room 15 of the court. According to posts on Twitter, hundreds of protesters, including relatives of those on trial, gathered in Khayyam street and 15 Khordad Square and were being vigorously pursued by basij. There are some reports of tear gas being used. Trouble was also reported in the bazaar, where several people were said to have been injured.
The inconsistencies of the Iranian legal procedure were laid bare as the new set of defendants was pictured arrayed in several rows of the courtroom. They included Clotilde Reiss, the French academic arrested on her way out of the country more than a month ago, and Hossein Rassam, the Iranian employee at the British embassy in Tehran accused of fomenting unrest. The initial hearing last Saturday was held behind closed doors with no lawyers present. Today’s group of defendants appear to be luckier – the hearing is open and the presiding judge, Abul Qassem Salvati, said lawyers had seen the indictments and visited their clients. Complaints were reported from lawyers representing last week’s defendants that they had been unable to do either.
Among those in court today, according to PressTV, were Ahmad Zeybadi, a journalist, Ali Tajernia, Hedayat Aghai, Shahab Tabatabai and Javad Emam. The report said individuals “known to be affiliated with terrorist groups and others who were involved in recent post-election street riots are also present in the court”.
As if to make a particular point, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi , the head of Iran’s judiciary, hailed the independence of Iran’s judicial system at a gathering of Justice Department heads in Tehran today. “Today, our judicial system is prominent in the world, but it was not the same in the past, because the judiciary in Iran is now independent and enjoys its own legal and conceptual viewpoint and this has bought it special dignity and status inside and outside (the country),” he said, in comments reported by Fars news agency. “Separation and demarcation of the three branches of power and the judiciary’s independence and the dignity of the judges in Iran have promoted the country’s stand in the world. This is one of the features of religious populism.
As if to rub salt in the wound, he suggested Iran represented a model to those who wished to introduce “Islam and justice in the Islamic system and its respect for human rights.” He added that Iran’s system, contrasted sharply with flawed justice systems in nthe West “which allege to be defenders of human rights”, and r aised the case of the recent murder of an Egyptian woman in a German court that raised an international outcry. PressTV, Fars
British fury as embassy worker and French academic “confess” — Britain reacted with fury today as Hossein Rassam, the embassy staffer arrested for attending demonstrations in Tehran, apologised to the court at today’s resumed mass trial. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said the trial “brings further discredit on the Iranian regime”. He added: “I am deeply concerned by the unjustified charges laid today against Hossein Rassam in Tehran. Hossein is a member of our embassy staff going about his legitimate duties.”
Rassam, accused by the court of spying, appeared alongside Clotilde Reiss (photo below), the French academic arrested on her way home to France from Isfahan, and Nazak Afshar, a female Iranian employee of the cultural section of the French embassy in Tehran, who also both “confessed” in open court (see confessions below). The British embassy’s senior political analyst, he was one of nine Iranian members of the embassy’s staff arrested on June 27. The others were freed a short while later but he was held until July 19 when he was released on bail of 1 billion rials (about $100,000). Reports in the hardline press accused Rassam of playing a key role in a British plot to destabilise the country but the evidence presented to court today showed his “crime” involved no more than gathering information on the unrest and reporting it to his employers.
The Foreign Office had earlier described the trial as an “outrage”. A spokesman said: “This is completely unacceptable and directly contradicts assurances we have repeatedly been given by senior Iranian officials. We deplore these trials and the so-called confessions of prisoners who have been denied their basic human rights.” Miliband said talks between diplomats from the two countries had been taking place in both London and Tehran today. He added: “We are in close contact with our European and other international partners: I have spoken today to French Foreign Minister Kouchner and to Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt in his capacity as EU Presidency. We have reaffirmed our solidarity in the face of this latest Iranian provocation.”
By contrast, the French made no public comment about the appearance of Reiss and Afshar. According to reports at the time, Reiss who turned 24 while in prison, was arrested July 1 at Tehran airport on her way out of Iran after working for a period as a teaching assistant at Isfahan university. While there she joined in an anti-regime demonstration and sent pictures from her mobile phone to an acquaintance in Tehran. Seated prominently at today’s hearing, flanked by a policewoman, Reiss wore a dark coat and colourful headscarf. French embassy sources quoted by the media said the court appearance had taken them by surprise. One diplomat said: “We came to know only this morning from television. We were not informed previously.” Bernard Poletti, the French ambassador to Tehran, has visited Reiss once in Evin prison and spoken to her twice by telephone.
Alaedin Borujerdi, Head of the Majlis’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, defended the trial of Reiss saying Iran was entitled to defend its national security. “It is natural that the Islamic Republic of Iran strongly confronts any violations of security rules and regulations by any individual, even foreigners, in a bid to defend its interests and national security,” he told Fars news agency. He said Reiss enjoyed the right of a lawyer at the trial. PA, Iran Focus, Fars
Hossein Rassam: The senior political analyst for the British Embassy in Tehran faces a charge of spying for foreigners. The indictment says: “You, along with Arash Momenian, were given the duty of meeting representatives of political groups, ethnic and religious minorities, and student groups and relaying the news of Iran’s riots to London.”. Rassam told the court that he had indeed been gathering information on post-election demonstrations for the British government at the request of his superiors. “Based on the order of British embassy, the local staff were asked to be present in the riots along with [Second Secretary of the British Embassy] Tom Burn and Paul Blemey [the two diplomats expelled by Iran in June]. “Burn was at the protests in Motahari and Sanai streets in Tehran on June 14 and Patrick Davis was also present at the march from Enghelab Street to Sharif Technical University. The ambassador along with the charge d’affaires also witnessed a rally of Mousavi supporters.”
Rassam said the embassy had a budget of $500,000 to finance opposition groups and political activists, and that he personally contacted the office of Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the run-up to the election. He also admitted that another embassy worker wore green to one of the demonstrations. “The British Embassy, due to its hostile policies in Iran and fear of exposure of its contacts inside Iran, employed local staff to establish such contacts. I established such contacts based on orders from embassy officials.” Rassam expressed “regret” and asked for a pardon and an opportunity to make up for any action that might have harmed the government. His lawyer then argued that Rassam’s activities were not spying; hje was simply doing his job at the embassy. PressTV, NYT
Clotilde Reiss: The indictment against her accused her of acting against Iran’s national security by participating in illegal street riots, and collecting news and pictures from them. Reiss, 24 and the daughter of a member of the French Nuclear Commission, said she had written about Iran’s nuclear power programme as well as post-election developments for the French embassy while working as a visiting lecturer at Isfahan technical university. “Following the closure of the university as a result of the post-election events, I was planning to leave Iran, but I took part in rallies of June 15 and 17 in Tehran and took photographs and film. I did this out of curiosity and to be aware of the political situation. I wanted to know of what was happening. I was interested in obtaining information about rallies of students in Iran. It was my own decision. No one had asked me to do anything.” Admitting that she sent emails to French friends and relatives she s aid she had also “written a one-page report and submitted it to an official at the cultural department of the French embassy who was not a diplomat.” She added: “I should not have gone to the illegal protests and also should not have sent the images. I am sorry. Therefore I apologise to the people and the Iranian court and hope they forgive me.” PressTV
Nazak Afshar: She works in the cultural mission of the French embassy. She wept as she said: “I physically attended gatherings … Brothers at the Intelligence Ministry made me understand my mistake.” Time
Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani: He told the court: “I accept all the charges the deputy prosecutor read out against me in the indictment.” He was identified to the court as a member of an anti-Iranian terrorist group calling itself the Council of the Kingdom of Iran (the name draws a blank in Google as does an alternative used elsewhere of Iran Kingdom Association, but the name PressTV employs of the Iranian Empire Society enables a link to a report about how group members were arrested at the big demonstration on June 16). He said US intelligence agencies had hatched different plots to infiltrate the election campaign and the headquarters of some election candidates. “Infiltrating the parties that aimed to take part in the election, as well as infiltrating the universities and unions, were some of the plots we were due to perform for the US forces and the Council of the Kingdom.” He added: “We received funds from the US and the office of the Council of the Kingdom to continue our work and to make a living.”
He said he had met US intelligence officers inside the semi autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. “After arriving in the Iraqi city of Arbil where US forces were stationed, I contacted the US intelligence services and talked to an individual called Frank, who was the region’s intelligence officer. Then after I briefed them on our situation, they gave us money and reserved a room for us at a hotel. They even gave us a special cell phone to contact Frank if we encountered any security problems.”
Ali-Zamani said he was then referred to a contact in Los Angeles, operating under the alias of Jamshid. “After a while, Jamshid assigned me to several operations such as taking part in an interview with Euro-TV, carrying out a bombing and terrorist attacks.” He had also been briefed by his American contacts in Iraq on obtaining detailed information about government and student activities in Iran. He said he had also been approached by an Israeli identified as Iman Afaq who introduced him to another contact who said he was a member of the Israeli secret service, Mossad.”
Ali-Zamani said he was supposed to carry out an operation inside Iran to cause “as many deaths as possible”. He said: “The operation, code named Salman, was to identify senior offices within the government, the basij and appropriate locations for prospective bombings,” he said. Ali-Zamani said he had been given formulas to make bombs to set off inside Iran. “The Council of the Kingdom of Iran sent us some formulas to make weak and powerful bombs and wanted us to deliver them to our agents in Iran so that they could foment unrest by detonating them.”
He also “confessed” to involvement in the bomb blast at the Hosseinieh Seyed-ul-Shohada religious centre in Shiraz in April 2008 which claimed 14 lives and wounded at least 200. (Three people were hanged in Shiraz last April for the bombing). He added: “We received funds from the US and the office of the Council of the Kingdom to continue our work and to make a living.” PressTV, Fars, Fars, Payvand News
Nasser Abdul-Hosseini, alias Behrouz: In court Hosseini admitted all the charges raised against him. He said he crossed illegally into Iraq to be trained at the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq’s Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad. “I went there after crossing Iran-Iraq border at Qashr Shirin illegally and I was trained by a person named Siyavash in a bid to stage operations in Tehran.” Training included sparking unrest at peaceful demonstrations, taking photographs of empty polling stations and sending them to Mujahedin headquarters and putting up pictures of Mujahedin leaders at Iranian universities. He also admitted learning how to make Molotov cocktails and, from a London-based female Mujahedin member called Zohreh, how to set buses and mosques on fire. He said he was unable to carry out his mission before his arrest. Fars
Arash Rahmanipour: Another supposed member of the Council of the Kingdom or Iran terrorist group, said the group sought to stage several bomb blasts in highly populated areas during the unrest. He accepted all the charges against him, including “acting against Iran’s national security”. The indictment accused him of trying to assassinate Iranian authorities and bomb public centres, holy places and polling stations. “None of my actions is defendable,” he told the court. He said the Council of the Kingdom was trying to create antagonism among Iranians by promoting confrontation between nationalists and Islamists. He said the group’s motto was ‘Protect Iran against Islam and Muslims’. He now accepted, he said, that the council was trying to distort history as well as the Qoran in a bid to portray Islam as an oppressor. Fars
Reza Rafiee Forushani: An indictment read to the court accused Foroushani of acting against Iran’s national security through spying for foreign intelligence services. Forushani, who identified himself as a special correspondent for Time magazine in Iran, told the court: “I worked for the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence service for two years and received 5,000 Dirhams (about $1,400) each month.” For this, he said he talked to UAE intelligence officers on his mobile phone and sent messages purely about his own views on events. He insisted none of the messages contained any sensitive information. [Here Fars makes the point that the UAE has close cooperation with the intelligence agencies of the US and Britain.] Of his work for Time, Forushani said: “I was tasked with establishing contacts with Iranian officials and also attending the President’s press conferences to ask some special questions.” However he said he had no direct links with the magazine’s offices in London and Tehran. He also “confessed” to taking part in the the street protests, taking photographs of the riots and sending them to foreign websites or uploading them to such websites as Facebook. Fars
Prosecutor outlines Western plot — Iran’s enemies “exploited different media and opportunist individuals, communicated with foreigners and used all the potential of counter-revolutionary groups seeking to deliver a blow to the security of our Islamic country,” Abdolreza Mohebati, Deputy Prosecutor-General of Tehran, said in the lengthy indictment read out to the court.
Quoted by Fars news agency, he said the enemy’s plots and false claims were intended to convince Iranians the election had been fraudulent, thus seeking to transform “one of the greatest political honours of the Islamic Republic of Iran” into a security threat and propaganda to overthrow the Islamic Republic.
Mohebbati, according to Fars, said the West had changed its military approach against Iran to a political one because of the problems it was facing in the Iraq and Afghanistan “quagmires” and Israel’s failures in the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and [Hamas in] Gaza. So instead the West changed its plans to induce “soft regime change” in Iran.
The policy of the West, especially the US and Britain, in confronting the Islamic republic, he said, was now based on the establishment of Western democracy in Iran, fomenting insecurity and intensifying unrest, and constraining Iran’s regional power.
The deputy prosecutor then went on to outline a particular American plot to engineer a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic republic. He said the plot, named “Exchange Project”, was introduced because Iran had arrested all its agents. He said project was aimed at encouraging different Iranian groups and individuals to visit the US via what he described as Washington’s “anti-Iran centres” in Dubai, Istanbul, Baku, London and Frankfurt, in an attempt to train them to enact its regime change plans. He said there were documents proving how, after intensive study of the con ditions in side Iran, “the project for the soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic – or as they call it public diplomacy – was placed on the West’s agenda.”
The indictment adds: “After the formation of the Office of Iran in Dubai (stationed in the US consulate) by the US State Department, the office started recruiting important Iranian people and encouraged them to act against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s interests by changing the viewpoints and conceptions of their fellow-countrymen.” Among the measures the EWst introduced, the indictement said, were training reporters to collect information, creating websites to train agents in their roles during the election, dispatching artists and professionals “to form the required cadres to hold sensitive posts in future”, and helping non-governmental organisations. Fars, Fars
— attempting to weaken the position of velayat-e faqih (religious jurisprudence) in Iran and challenging the system’s legitimacy;
— attempting to carry out a velvet revolution and having close contacts with foreign embassies and media.
The blogsite Revolutionary Road said the indictment issued in court opened with a long argument as to how the West, and particularly America and Britain, plotted to overthrow the Iranian regime in a “soft revolution”: This is summarised below [and edited where possible for clarity]:
Foreign countries designed and planned the soft overthrow of the Iranian regime. The new policies of the West, especially America and Britain, to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran involved:
1-Creating democracy that would suit the interests and goals of the West;
2-Engaging the regime by creating internal insecurity and aggravating differences inside Iran;
3-Constraining the regional power of the Islamic Republic.
They used all their powers , such as the media, public diplomacy, creating organisations based on people and relation networks (?) and organising opposition people, to create civil disobedience and provided all the necessary funds to reach their goal. The strategies employed to engineer the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran were :
1-Advertising and promoting the necessity of political change in the regime;
2-Pressure from international trades unions, businessmen, and so-called human rights groups, and forming civil groups in opposition to the Islamic Republic;
3-Economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic;
4-Secret financial strengthening of the opposition inside the regime;
5-Identifying, attracting and empowering centres and individuals and effective classes (?) in society, such as women, young people, NGOs and so forth, to achieve certain goals.
To reach their goals ,they used the opportunities provided by the free environment in the lead-up to the election and, using public diplomacy and covert actions, tried to ac achieve their target.
The most important objectives of this project from theoretical points of view include :
1-Forcing the regime to move in the same direction and desires as they want through popular pressure;
2-Creating an atmosphere of mistrust towards the regime’s authorities and thus disorder in decision-making process;
3-Diverting public opinion from the interests and principles of the system and promoting the desired techniques in society (?) by sowing doubt about the values of system;
4-Creating differences in society, different tendencies, and the division and separation between the people and the rulers through accusations of lying against the authorities and leaders;
5-Producing a fission in the thinking (?) of ethnic and religious groups with the purpose of disrupting national unity.
[Media] reports which stressed the necessity of using public diplomacy show the plans of western governments against the Islamic Republic :
1-Utilisation of Iran internal disputes;
2-Using the “soft overthrow” option instead of military action;
3-Provoking civil disobedience among students and non-government and trades union organisations;
4-Emphasising the necessity of international supervision of elections;
5-Hypocritical support of human rights and democracy in Iran;
6-Establishing and strengthening numerous radio and television networks to fool the people;
7-Supporting internal opposition;
8-Facilitating the activation of NGO’s aligned with the West;
9-Facilitating the issuance of visas for people aligned with the goals of the West;
10-Inviting young Iranian activists to participate in foreign seminars to attract and target training for what happened in countries such as Serbia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chile, Ukraine and so on.
On the other hand, some other statements have said they have great concerns about Iran and the only way for their worries to end is for Iran to follow their policies. Also they have stated that they will use all political, economic and diplomatic tools and whatever they have for the destruction of tyranny and promoting effective democracy in Iran, which are as follows:
1-Exposing the human rights violations;
2-Supporting the reformists through meetings in the Foreign Ministry and their own embassies;
3-Apply sanctions to create a gap between the people and their rulers. Revolutionary Road