Iranian prosecutor demands death penalty for reformer

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The Independent Online

An Iranian prosecutor has called for the death penalty for a senior reformer put on trial yesterday for allegedly plotting pro-democracy protests. Saeed Hajjarian, a former minister, was accused of acting against national security, a crime punishable by death, in the fourth mass trial of moderates after Iran's disputed election. The prosecutor called for

"maximum punishment".

Mr Hajjarian, disabled after an assassination attempt against him in 2000, was among several prominent opposition figures in the dock yesterday charged with fomenting the huge protests that followed the June poll.

The vote plunged Iran into its most serious internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing divisions in its ruling elite and further straining ties with the West.

"The prosecutor... called for maximum punishment for Hajjarian considering the importance of the case," the official IRNA news agency reported. Analysts regard the trials as an attempt by the authorities to uproot the moderate opposition and end protests about the election, which defeated candidates say was rigged in favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Several of the accused are members of Iran's leading reformist party, Mosharekat, whose website denounced the Revolutionary Court session as a show trial and an "ugly scenario".

At the same trial, the state broadcaster said Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was accused of acting against national security and espionage, a charge likely to anger Washington. Those on trial also included former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh and business newspaper editor Saeed Laylaz, an outspoken critic of Mr Ahmadinejad's economic policies.

In a separate development, a member of a parliamentary committee looking into the post-election period, said it was investigating a rumoured "mass burial" of protesters.

The reformist website Norooz said last week that "tens" of people were buried in unnamed graves in a Tehran cemetery on 12 and 15 July.

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