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2 get death sentences for post-election uprising in Iran

The sentences against the unnamed defendants are the latest sign that hard-liners are intensifying efforts to halt another possible round of anti-government rallies.

October 11, 2009|Jeffrey Fleishman and Ramin Mostaghim

CAIRO AND TEHRAN — Iran announced Saturday that two people have been sentenced to death for joining the nationwide uprising after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection in June, when hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters clashed for weeks with police and paramilitary forces.

The death sentences are the latest indication that Ahmadinejad's hard-line camp is intensifying efforts to suppress another possible round of anti-government rallies. Security forces, including the Revolutionary Guard, have backed the president and in recent weeks have imposed a tight grip on Tehran and other major cities.

The defendants reportedly belong to two groups seeking to overthrow the government: the Mujahedin Khalq, which is based in Paris and Iraq, and the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, a monarchist group with a base in London. Iran regards both as terrorist organizations. The condemned men were identified only by their initials: A.P. and N.A.

The accused were charged for their roles "in the postelection incidents [and] have been sentenced to death," said Zahed Bashiri Rad, media officer at the Justice Ministry, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency Saturday. He was said the sentences were "not final and can still be appealed to the supreme court."

There was confusion over the details of another defendant sentenced to death last week. An opposition website reported Thursday that Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, a member of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, was sentenced to hang for his participation in postelection unrest. The Justice Ministry says Zamani was jailed before the June 12 presidential election for an alleged role in a mosque bombing in southern Iran.

On Friday, Amnesty International reported that Zamani was the first person to receive the death penalty for acts connected with the recent street demonstrations. It urged the Iranian government to rescind the sentence on Zamani, who it said was charged with "enmity against God for membership of and activities to further the aims of the terrorist group" Kingdom Assembly of Iran.

Amnesty said it "fears Zamani's death sentence will pave the way for more death sentences against those being tried on similar offenses."

The human rights group reported on its website that 13 other detainees may face death sentences.

More than 100 protesters and opposition supporters are on trial before a Tehran Revolutionary Court in what Amnesty called a "mockery of justice."

Naser Zarafshan, an Iranian human rights lawyer, said the death sentences and trials are meant by the government "to send a signal to the opposition that we may come to you and show you our strength. One of the purposes of these show trials is to intimidate and send a message."

More than 30 people have been killed in a government crackdown on the opposition movement, which is led by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi and other reformers.

Ahmadinejad's opponents say he stole the election through systematic vote fraud.

Protests and rallies have dwindled since the summer as the opposition calculates its next move and the police and military arrest opposition supporters, including dozens of university students in recent weeks.

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jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

Mostaghim is a special correspondent.

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