Stalinist Show Trials: Part Four
25 Aug 2009 19:07
Saeed Hajjarian (center), who was left partially paralyzed after an assassination attempt, is considered the brain behind the reformist movement. By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 25 Aug 2009
Comment The fourth installment of the Stalinesque show trials of the leaders of the reformist movement was held today in Tehran. In this part of the big show, some of the most important reformist leaders were featured, including Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the most important reformist group in Iran; Mohsen Safaei Farahani, Saeed Shariati, Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Shahabolddin Tabatabaei, and Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, all leading members of the IIPF; Mostafa Tajzadeh, a member of the IIPF and the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (IRMO), another leading reformist group; Behzad Nabavi, a leading member of the IRMO, and Hedayatollah Aghaei, a leading member of the Executives of Reconstruction Party (ERP), a reformist group close to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Also present in court were Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, who used to work for the George Soros Open Society, and three of the journalists arrested, Jalal Karami, Masoud Bastani, and Mohammad Quchani, a leading reformist journalist and editor of many reformist newspapers that have been closed by the hardliners. [Overall, 42 journalists were arrested, but some were later released]. Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, who was a leader of the Mir Hossein Mousavi campaign, and a doctoral student at Oxford University in Britain, was also present in court. The court has apparently ordered the release of Quchani and Jalaeipour before the court session took place, but they were still brought to court for an appearance.
Once again, the prosecutor read a long "indictment" that had been prepared by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's notorious Prosecutor General and the Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court. Once again, the "indictment" was not a legal document, but a political manifesto of the hardliners, almost all of which had been published over the past few years by the daily newspaper Kayhan, the mouthpiece of the security-intelligence apparatus, and Fars News Agency, which operates more like a propaganda machine.
Once again, the reformist leaders were accused of having links with foreign powers, and in particular Britain and the United States, through a variety of channels, from the Open Society to people who are, or were at some point, supposedly members of western intelligence agencies.
The goals of "the indictment" were clear:
- To set the stage for outlawing the three leading reformist groups, namely, the IIPF, IRMO and ERP. In the author's previous reports on the show trials, this possibility had been set out. With the fourth session, however, such a goal has become abundantly clear.
- To attack Rafsanjani indirectly, by accusing his son, Mehdi Hashemi, and his nephew, Ali Hashemi, of having a hand in the demonstrations and being behind the harsh criticisms leveled at Ahmadinejad and his administration.
- To humiliate Dr. Hajjarian, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the hardliners in March 2000, which left him semi-paralyzed. Hajjarian is considered the leading reformist strategist and a hero.
The first goal was achieved by reading a long litany of actions committed by the three political parties, and in particular the IIPF, the main target of the prosecutor, that supposedly amounted to "treason." These actions went back to 1998, when the IIPF was founded by 100 of the leading reformists, including those who were present in court.
The "treason" included criticizing Iran's stance on its nuclear program vis-a-vis the European Union and the United States; referring to the Islamic Republic as a dual ruling group (i.e., the republican part versus the Islamic side); calling the recent election a fraud; urging better diplomacy with the outside world, etc.
Dr. Mirdamadi was accused of saying to the European officials, in a trip he made as the Chair of the National Security Committee of the 6th Majles, that Iran's political system has two parts: an elected part and an unelected part. How this well-known fact constitutes treason is not clear. It is even mentioned in and recognized by Iran's constitution.
More importantly, even if one assumes that the long litany of the "accusations" made by the prosecution do actually constitute treason, why were there no attempts made in the past several years to confront them? Why was no member of the three reformist groups, including those who were present in court, ever accused of committing "treason" before?
It was as if the court suddenly recognized these as "treason" after the reformist leaders protested the sham "election" and the coup staged by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)! It was as if "treason" could be tolerated or ignored, unless they also included calling the election what it really was, a large-scale fraud for retaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president!
Another absurd aspect of the "treason" committed by members of the IIPF is that some of those who have also engaged in such alleged subversion, have not been indicted. Their names will not be mentioned here.
The second goal of the "indictment" was to attack Rafsanjani's relatives and set the stage for their indictment, which would in turn weaken Rafsanjani and pave the way to eliminate him from the political scene. For example, Ali Hashemi, Rafsanjani's nephew, was accused of presenting a "fake" poll indicating that Mousavi was far ahead of Ahmadinejad before the election. He is accused of doing this to make people believe there was going to be fraud in the vote count, which would provoke people to demonstrate after the election.
Two journalists, Jalal Karami and Masoud Bastani, were also forced to read statements in which they spoke against Mehdi Hashemi, Rafsanjani's son. For example, Bastani, who is the editor of the political website, Jomhouriyat [Republicanism], stated that his website, which was under the management of Mehdi Hashemi, had become a site for attacking the Guardian Council [a Constitutional body that vets the candidates for most elections], the Basij militia, the IRGC, the police, Ahmadinejad, and creating doubts about the election, and presenting polls and statistics to provoke people. He also stated that these were all done in coordination with Karami.
The third goal of the "indictment" was to break and humiliate Dr. Hajjarian. He is despised by the hardliners as he was the brain and strategist behind the reform movement. He is particularly despised by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, Ahmadinejad's former Minister of Intelligence who was just appointed as the new Prosecutor General of Iran, stated a few years ago, "If I were a judge and Hajjarian's case was on my desk, I would give him a death sentence."
Nine years ago, his popular newspaper, Sobh-e Emrooz [This Morning], was "temporarily" closed, and remains so. Even now that Dr. Hajjarian is mostly paralyzed, unable to speak coherently or for an extended period, he is feared and despised by the hardliners.
Because Dr. Hajjarian has difficulty speaking since the assassination attempt, his "confession" was read by Saeed Shariati, another member of the IIPF. But, what was read, even if genuine, was in the author's opinion, a courageous act by Dr. Hajjarian. He basically blamed himself for the "offenses" that the IIPF has supposedly committed. He "confessed" many times that his analysis and thinking, which have been used by the IIPF, were wrong. He also declared that he was resigning from membership in the IIPF. He was basically saying, "Blame me for all of it; leave the IIPF alone."
Anyone who knows Dr. Hajjarian, or has followed his work for two decades, like the author, is deeply familiar with his views on Iran. He has been active for nearly four decades in the nation's struggle for a democratic political system, of institutionalizing personal and political freedom, including freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom of thought. A person with such a track record does not, almost overnight, change his views. In today's court session, he was just making one more sacrifice for his friends and colleagues.
Dr. Hajjarian's long time attorney is Gholamali Riahi. Tehran's Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, had also appointed another attorney for Dr. Hajjarian, an unknown attorney named Salahi. The goal was clear: Salahi, the appointed attorney, would present a feeble defense of Dr. Hajjarian, state that he has "repented," and ask for Islamic kindness and clemency. By also allowing Riahi to be a co-attorney for Dr. Hajjarian, the hardliners wanted to claim that whatever was stated by Salahi about Dr. Hajjarian was also agreed upon by Riahi. That was another facet to the hardliners' attempt to humiliate Dr. Hajjarian. But, Riahi, an old hand in representing reformists in the hardliners' court system, understood the game and resigned as Dr. Hajjarian's attorney, thus at least foiling this part of the hardliners' plot.
An interesting aspect of today's session was what happened after the session ended. Dr. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, a member of the central committee of the IIPF and the spokesman for the second term of the Khatami administration, told reporters after the court session that, "I am a reformist and my views are well-known." In other words, he was saying, "Whatever the prosecutor quoted me saying today does not represent my true views. Mine are those that are already well-known." Mohsen Safaei Farahani, an economist and a member of the central committee of the IIPF, also said the same thing.
The IIPF issued a harshly-worded statement, declaring that the Stalinist show trials and its 4th session today were only aimed at giving legitimacy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "landslide election." It stated that the court was illegal and failed to follow any established legal procedure. It asked, rhetorically, "Who among us does not know the views of dear Saeed [Hajjarian] who was trying to fault himself for everything, whereas every member of the IIPF proudly defends its achievements and goals."
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau