New York, August 25, 2009--The fourth session of the mass trial of more
than 100 opposition figures, including journalists, took place in Tehran today. The
Committee to Protect Journalists is particularly dismayed by procedural
irregularities and the fact that the trial is only open to state-owned media.
In the aftermath of the country's disputed June 12
presidential election, Iranian authorities have expelled foreign journalists or
severely limited their ability to report independently. They have also arrested
dozens of journalists, a number of whom are facing various criminal charges.
In a Revolutionary Court
in Tehran today,
about 20 people, including journalists, politicians, and academics, were facing
charges of misusing "the supporters of defeated candidates to launch a
soft coup d'état," Agence France-Presse quoted a state broadcaster as saying. The
defendants, who were described by the court as "a power-seeking defiant
movement" that has "stood against the system and the majority vote of the
people," were charged with "lying" and spreading "rumors of fraud in the
election," Iranian state broadcaster Press TV reported. Among the defendants was
Bastani of reformist news Web site Jomhoriyat, the editor-in-chief
of the reformist daily Etemad e Melli , Muhammad Ghouchani, Saeed Laylaz of the daily business journal Sarmaia,
and Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, who writes a weekly column for reformist news Web site
The Fars News Agency reported that Bastani testified that
Mehdi Rafsanjani, the son of powerful cleric and former President Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, sought to create "an illusion that there was a fraud in the
voting." Bastani allegedly also said that he "had orders to attack the four-year
work of the government, to weaken the Guardian Council ... to cast doubt on the
election process." He works for Jomhoriyat, a news Web site affiliated
with the defeated reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi; he was detained on
Bastani's alleged confession comes on the heels of others
that appear to have been coerced. The journalists' lawyers have been denied
access to their clients in prison, and police
chief Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam recently admitted that detainees
had been tortured while in custody.
"The government in Tehran
seems to have dropped even the pretense of providing defendants with due
process," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed
Abdel Dayem. "Iran's
record of coercing confessions from detained journalists is notorious,
especially when they are held for extended periods of time without access to
legal counsel, as has been the case here."
Iran remains the
world's leading jailer of journalists with at least 36 behind bars.