Saturday, October 10, 2009

Iran sentences 3 people to death over vote unrest

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A court has sentenced three people to death over unrest that erupted after Iran's disputed election in June and links to exiled opposition groups, the ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.

ISNA, citing the head of the publication relations office of Tehran provincial court, did not identify those who received the death penalty, giving only their initials.

A man walks past electoral posters outside a campaign centre for Mohsen Rezai, presidential candidate and a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, in northern Tehran, May 25, 2009. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files)

"The execution sentences were handed down because of involvement in post-election developments and affiliation with the Iran monarchical association and the PMOI," the official, Zahid Bashiri-Rad, said.

"These sentences are not final and can be appealed in a higher court," he said.

The People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) is an exiled opposition organisation, seen by both Iran and the United States as a terrorist group.

One of the initials given by ISNA matches that of Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani, whom the reformist Mowjcamp website on Thursday said had been sentenced to death.

A semi-official news agency, Mehr, said in August he was accused of fighting against the Islamic establishment and active membership of a "terrorist" royalist association, and other crimes.

There have been no other reports of death sentences issued against people involved in huge demonstrations that erupted after the poll, which the opposition says was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ali-Zamani was among more than 100 opposition supporters, including senior reformist figures, who were accused of fomenting post-election street unrest in a series of mass trials that got under way in August.

Mowjcamp said he had made "extensive confessions" during his trial. Reformist politicians have condemned the court sessions as "show trials".

Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, who backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the election, has said confessions made at the trials were obtained under "extraordinary conditions" and were invalid.

Analysts see the mass trials as an attempt by the authorities to uproot the moderate opposition.

The June election plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, when the U.S.-backed shah was toppled.

The authorities have portrayed the street protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state. The opposition says more than 70 people were killed in the unrest, more than double the official estimate.

Rights groups say thousands of people were detained after the vote, though most have since been released. Last week, Iran freed one detained reformer, Saeed Hajjarian, on bail.

(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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