Embassy staff on trial in Iran

Aug 8th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

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Embassy staff on trial in Iran

BBC News

Two Iranian employees of the British and French embassies in Tehran and a French teacher are among those on trial in Iran after its disputed poll.

Hundreds were arrested during violent protests sparked following the results of the country’s presidential election.

Those on trial are accused of acting against Iran’s national security by taking part in the protests and spying.

Opposition leaders say such proceedings are “show trials”. The French and UK governments say they are “outrages”.

There are reports that a large crowd, including relatives of defendants, had gathered outside the court in Tehran, and were dispersed, or attacked, by riot police.

Last week more than 100 people appeared in court in Tehran on charges including conspiracy. Several leading reformers were among the detainees.

“The trial session of the second group of those accused of being involved in post-election unrest started this morning,” the semi-official Fars news agency said.

‘Mistakes’

British embassy employee Hossein Rassam was held after the post-election protests with eight other embassy colleagues and later released on bail. He is the most senior Iranian employee at the British embassy.

According to reports, he was asked to monitor the riots on the ground along with two UK diplomats who have since been expelled.

Prosecutors said that he was asked to meet representatives of political groups, ethnic and religious minorities, and student groups and inform London about the riots, Irna reports.

The judge said the allegation merited a charge of espionage.

Mr Rassam has apologized for taking part in the protests, asking for pardon for his “mistakes”, Irna reports.

In London, a spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said the trial was “completely unacceptable”.

“We deplore these trials and the so-called confessions of prisoners who have been denied their basic human rights,” she said.

She added that the British ambassador in Tehran had demanded early clarification of the position from the Iranian authorities.

“We will then decide on how to respond to this latest outrage,” she said.

A female Iranian employee of the French embassy, named as Nazak Ashfar, was also appearing in the dock, Irna reports.

She and other staffers had been told to offer shelter to protesters if required, Irna said.

‘Personal motives’

Clotilde Reiss

Clotilde Reiss

French teacher, Clotilde Reiss, “is accused of collecting information and provoking rioters”, Irna said.

She has been charged with acting against Iran’s national security, Irna is quoted as saying.

Ms Reiss, 24, was stopped on 1 July as she prepared to leave Tehran, having spent five months as a university teaching assistant.

Ms Reiss told the court she regretted taking part in the protests.

“My motive to take part in the gatherings was a personal one. But I accept that it was a mistake and I should not have gone to these gatherings,” she told the court, according to AFP.

She is reported to have told the court that she wrote a one-page report about the situation in Isfahan and gave it to the French embassy’s cultural section.

France says the allegations against her are “absolutely baseless”. She has been visited in prison by the French ambassador to Iran, who said she was in good health.

‘Nothing illegal’

Rights groups say that hundreds of people including reformist politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers, have been detained in Iran since the election.

The poll saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to power, but opposition leaders insist the election was rigged.

In last week’s trials, some of those in the dock made public confessions, saying they had made up their complaints against the elections to provoke unrest.

However, Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, has said that confessions will not be the sole basis for the prosecution of suspects.

“The judicial system will base its ruling on the suspects’ files and the evidence presented at courts,” he was quoted as saying on Thursday.

He denied that the confessions were extracted using illegal measures.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8191061.stm

Published: 2009/08/08 12:17:13 GMT

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