IRAN: Popular analyst seen smiling at his 'show trial'
Inside the courtroom, he wore eyeglasses and a prison uniform as well as an ironic smirk that let all know he was doing OK.
Just days before Iran's fateful June 12 presidential election, analyst, economist and writer Saeed Laylaz confided to The Times that he saw dark days ahead.
"I'm worried about the next 10 to 12 days," Laylaz (pictured above, second row, center), a supporter of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, said in an interview in early June. "The government is getting angrier and angrier."
Laylaz proved prophetic. On June 17, days after the disputed election amid the unrest that followed allegations of massive vote-rigging in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's favor, Laylaz was arrested.
He was held in solitary confinement out of public view until Tuesday, when he was seen inside the courtroom at the fourth session of the trial against reformists and domestic political rivals.
No one's quite sure why Laylaz was arrested, other than the fact that he's long been a vociferous and vocal critic of Ahmadinejad.
Among those who showed up in the court, which critics have derided as a "show trial," the Anglophone Laylaz is well known to outside observers of Iran. He is often cited as an expert on Iran by the major American newspapers and news outlets, including The Times.
In that interview weeks ago at his northeast Tehran apartment, he was concerned that the campaign was taking a bitter turn, with candidates publicly accusing one another of corruption.
"I've never seen anything like this when the president says everyone was corrupt before me and the other guys say, 'No, you're the corrupt one,'" he said. "The harsh rhetoric is reflecting badly on the regime."
Laylaz feared how the supporters of Ahmadinejad would respond to a defeat.
In almost whispered tones, he suggested shadowy forces would respond badly if their boy didn't win.
He also said Ahmadinejad's opponents had figured out a strategy to defeat the incumbent.
The plan was to hammer away at Ahmadinejad's claims of being a man of the people by zeroing in on the perceived lack of ethics inside his government, and to undermine his talk of bringing international glory to Iran by decrying what he had done to the nation's reputation.
Iranians' worries about their financial well-being would do the rest, he predicted.
"We started out down 3 to 0," he said back then. "Now we're 3 to 3, and we're winning. We're just worried about the referee."
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo: Journalist Saeed Laylaz, second row, center, appears as a prisoner but does speak at a trial against Ahmadinejad's opponents in Tehran on Tuesday. Credit: Fars News Agency