In Iran, 100 Accused Of Conspiracy

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New York Times reporter Nazila Fathi talks to NPR's Guy Raz about the trial in Iran of 100 people accused of conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution. Proceedings began this weekend. Among the defendants are former high-ranking officials. The trial is the government's latest move to clamp down on the mass protest movement sparked after the presidential election in June. Millions have taken to the streets to challenge the electoral victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's supposed to be sworn in for a second term this week.

GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. 100 Iranians are now on trial in Tehran. The government accuses them of conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution. The trial opened yesterday, just days before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is supposed to be sworn in for a second term.

Since the presidential election in June, millions of Iranians have taken to the streets to challenge Ahmadinejad's victory. They say the election was a sham. Nazila Fathi spent spend 15 years covering Iran for the New York Times. She was living in Tehran until just last month.

And Nazila Fathi, welcome.

Ms. NAZILA FATHI (Reporter, New York Times): Hi, thank you.

RAZ: Tell us about the trial that opened yesterday. Who's in the dock?

Ms. FATHI: Many prominent figures. Among them were Mr. Atrianfar, who was a deputy interior minister in the '80s, another deputy interior minister in the late '90s, early 2000, vice president under former President Mohammad Khatami.

RAZ: In fact, former President Mohammad Khatami, who is a reformist, has called these proceedings a show trial. Already, many of those accused have confessed to conspiracy. What do you make of that?

Ms. FATHI: Well, I don't think we should value the confessions. Many people who have been imprisoned in the past, they have said that anyone under those kinds of conditions finally start saying whatever they're asked to. So I don't think the confessions have any value. It - we have to wait and see what these people are going to say after they come out of prison.

RAZ: Nazila Fathi, explain something to us. There was this mass protest movement and that was going on for at least 10 days in Iran. We are not seeing those mass demonstrations anymore. Is it over? Has the protest movement been defeated?

Ms. FATHI: No. The mass protests are going on. They're not happening on a daily basis, but they have been happening. Actually, two days ago, three days ago, there was another protest.

People came out in very large numbers. But because the government is more prepared to crush the protesters, they are very scattered around town so it's hard to estimate how many people are coming out. And in the meantime, there is restriction on reporters inside the country to cover these protests, so they cannot estimate how many people come out. But they are happening. People have been coming out in very large numbers.

RAZ: In just a few days, President Ahmadinejad will be sworn in for a second term. At that point, what happens to the protest movement? I mean, he essentially is installed as the president for another four years.

Ms. FATHI: Yes. But the protests might continue. I don't think anything is going to happen or anything is going to make a change in the inauguration this coming week. But people, protesters, will keep on sending their messages, and we have to see how the establishment would finally react to people because this is not something that they can put an end to. They have to find a solution to it, a solution that would also satisfy people.

RAZ: Nazila Fathi is with the New York Times. She's covered Iran for 15 years and joined us from Toronto.

Nazila Fathi, thank you so much.

Ms. FATHI: Thank you, Guy. Thank you very much.

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