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IRAN: Five charged over Ashura protests as long list of prominent detainees emerges

January 7, 2010 |  7:28 am

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Five of the hundreds of people who were arrested during the violent protests that erupted in Iran on the Shiite Muslim mourning day Ashura on Dec. 27 are to be tried as moharebeh, or enemies of God, Iranian media reports.

If convicted of the grave offense of warring against God, they risk being executed.

The reports quoted statements issued by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court and the prosecutor’s office. Human rights activists weren't surprised. Iranian officials, including the speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, have in recent days called for the Ashura protesters to receive harsh punishments.

In the wake of the Ashura violence, Larijani urged officials in the Interior ministry and the judiciary arm to crack down on "offenders of the religion" and "anti-revolutionary figures with no mercy,” according to Iran's official news agency IRNA.

Tehran's Revolutionary Court issued a statement as reformist Iranian websites posted a list of names of more than 180 people arrested during and in the immediate aftermath of the Ashura protests.

They include prominent student activists such as Bahareh Hedayat; Ebrahim Yazdi, the secretary-general of the outlawed but usually tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran; several advisors to the leading reformist politicians Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammed Khatami;  as well as scores of journalists working mainly for reformist publications.

A number of adherents of the outlawed Bahai’i faith and several human rights activists, including the sister of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, were also picked up in recent security sweeps.

Meanwhile, the reformist Iranian website Rahesabz claimed that 94 students in Mashhad were also among those arrested.

An article on the Iranian exile news portal Gooya emphasized that the list is far from complete.

It does not "contain the names of the hundreds of protesters who were arrested on the streets of Tehran” and in other Iranian cities such as Isfahan, Mashhad and Arak, the report said. 

Violence gripped the Iranian capital anew in late December as thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with security forces on the day of Ashura. 

Several people were killed, including the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, and hundreds of people were arrested in the protests which turned Tehran into something resembling a war zone. 

Video footage from the protests showed burning trash cans and police vehicles tipped over and set on fire as demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans.

Three hundred of the those arrested over the Ashura violence are still being held in Tehran, Iranian police say.

The Iranian authorities have accused "foreign elements" of being behind the protests and stirring up recent unrest in the country.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Mosleh said Thursday that "both rioters and anti-revolutionary figures have some links with the enemies of the country and the [Islamic] system," according to Iranian media reports.

Earlier this week, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said several foreigners had been arrested over the Ashura protests.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with security forces in Tehran on the Shiite Muslim holiday Ashura on Dec. 27. Five of those arrested have now been charged with being "enemies of God", a grave offense that carries the death penalty. Credit: Associated Press

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