Iranian reformer found guilty after show trial

THE BATTLE for Iran's destiny intensified last night with the conviction of the leading reformer Abdollah Nouri by a Special Court for the Clergy in Tehran.

Hero to Tehran's reformist students, owner of a pro-reform newspaper, and the right-hand man of President Mohammed Khatami, Mr Nouri encapsulates Iran's reform movement. He is by far the most powerful man to have fallen victim to Iran's conservative courts.

There will be fears that the students may take to the streets of Tehran in protest. When the conservative courts closed a pro-reform newspaper this summer, hardline Islamic vigilantes used student protests as a pretext to attack the universities. At least one student was killed, and Mr Khatami's government has urged students not to make public protests at Mr Nouri's trial, but to make their feelings known at the ballot box.

It was unclear last night on which of the multitude of charges Mr Nouri had been found guilty. But once Iran's increasingly desperate conservatives had gambled on putting him on trial, the verdict was never in doubt. The charges, linked to articles published by Mr. Nouri's paper, included insulting Iran's revolutionary government. The judge is expected to hand down a verdict in a week or so; the jury found there were no mitigating circumstances.

It is no secret that the the special court, which answers only to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in the pocket of conservatives. Mr Nouri's trial felt like a show trial - the prosecutor even complained that his speeches did not get as much coverage in the Iranian press as he wanted.

But it was Mr Nouri who stole the show. The conservatives played into his hands by granting him so public a platform. In hearing after hearing, he attacked Iran's Islamic system, voicing criticisms no one has dared make in public before. He insisted that even the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was not above the rule of law, and that hardliners could not justify their policies solely on the words of Khomeini.

From the dock, Mr Nouri broke every taboo of Iranian political life, insisting it was not a crime to advocate improved relations with the US, Iran's "Great Satan". When he spoke in defence of charges of supporting Iran's leading dissident, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the man Khomeini once anointed his successor but now discredited for his support of reform, the court gagged Mr Nouri.

It seems unlikely the hardliners will risk the political fall-out from giving Mr Nouri a heavy sentence. What they will have achieved is to bar him from the parliamentary election due in February, which looked set to put him in the Speaker's chair in parliament, and to close his newspaper, Khordad.

But the conservatives have fallen once again into the trap of thinking only of the short-term. The hapless hardliners have just served the reform movement up with another martyr.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...