TEHRAN, Iran – Iran put 16 people detained during anti-government protests last month on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran's state media reported.
The official IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency) and state Press TV said the defendants, who appeared in a Tehran courtroom Saturday, face charges ranging from plotting against the establishment to violating security regulations.
Five of those on trial, including two women, were accused of "moharebeh," or defying God, a charge that could carry the death penalty, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
IRNA said all of the defendants were detained during anti-government demonstrations on Dec. 27, when at least eight people were killed and hundreds more were arrested after clashes between opposition activists and security forces. The violence was the worst since authorities launched a harsh crackdown immediately after Iran's disputed presidential election in June.
IRNA quoted a prosecutor identified only by the last name of Farahani as saying in court that the defendants have confessed to spying, planning bomb attacks and damaging public and private properties. He also said the defendants sent videos on the clashes between protesters and Iranian police to the "foreign hostile networks," IRNA reported.
During past mass trials in Iran, many Western human rights group have cautioned that detainees in Iran have made confessions under coercion from the authorities.
The new trial comes amid a sweeping crackdown by Iran's clerical leaders against opposition activists in a bid to crush the challenge that has emerged to their rule in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June.
The hardline government has tried more than 100 political activists since August, sentencing more than 80 people to prison terms and handing down 11 death sentences.
The trial also comes days after the authorities hanged two men who had been convicted of belonging to "counterrevolutionary and monarchist groups," plotting to overthrow "the Islamic establishment" and planning assassinations and bombings.
The men were arrested months before the election.
But they were put on the same mass trial as around 100 opposition activists, protesters and politicians who were arrested in the post election crackdown — an attempt by the leadership to show that the political opposition is in league with violent armed groups in a foreign-backed plot to overthrow the Islamic system.
Despite the crackdown, opposition activists have continued to hold sporadic, large street rallies. The opposition says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in the June election was fraudulent and call for his removal — though some in the movement have expanded to criticize Iran's clerical leadership.