Will Putting Reformists On Trial, End Iranian Opposition?
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And now let's turn to the trial being held in Tehran, where more than 100 opposition figures are accused of working with foreigners to undermine the government. We're going to Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times. He's been reporting on Iran for years, and he's following events from the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Borzou, welcome back to the program.
M: It's a pleasure.
INSKEEP: Because the Iranian government is televising these trials, I have to ask what's being done here to send a message.
M: Well, I think that in the past when they've these types of trials, the message was to try to silence and threaten the opposition. And also, I think, very, very importantly, it's a way for the government to keep its hard-liners' morale up. These folks, the guys who are out on the street beating people and keeping control during these demonstrations, are being bombarded with conflicting messages from the reformist media, from foreign- based satellite channels. And this type of spectacle, it encourages them that what they're doing is the right thing to be doing.
INSKEEP: I've also read some accounts that the prosecutor at these trials has essentially said if anybody questions the legitimacy of these trials, you're next.
M: Essentially, last night, the Revolutionary Court, which is the court that is handling this case, sent out a statement saying that - questioning these confessions, questioning this trial is itself a crime, and that they will be prosecuted, if people continue to question the trial.
INSKEEP: You alluded to confessions. What have some of the defendants confessed to?
M: Well, I think what's interesting about the confessions is that they are essentially a confirmation of the most extreme scenarios painted by Iran's right-wingers over the past few years. These guys, these reformists, some of them pillars of the revolution, have admitted to collaborating with the West in an effort to foment popular discontent and create a popular uprising to overthrow the Islamic Republic. They've said that they knew that the elections were legitimate, but that they went along and said that it was a fraud as part of some long-planned conspiracy.
INSKEEP: And what is the opposition saying about how those confessions were obtained?
M: Well, what - I think what's interesting is that one of the purposes of airing these confessions, and has been in the past, was to hush the opposition. But it didn't seem to happen that way. Almost immediately, you had opposition figures, including former president Mohammad Khatami and, of course, the opposition figurehead leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, denouncing this trial as a sham and a show trial, which was very usual. And it suggested that possibly that strategy of using these kinds of trials to hush the opposition may not work this time.
INSKEEP: You know, Mike Shuster's report a moment ago referred to the protests being increasingly directed against Iran's supreme leader partly for seeming to endorse fraudulent election, and partly for the violence that came afterward. What are the risks for the supreme leader of allowing trials to go forward like this?
M: And also, you've had some very prominent conservatives - including Mohsen Rezai, former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, and Ahmad Tavakoli who's a leader of conservative faction in parliament - come out strongly against these trials, saying that at the very least, they should also put those who killed demonstrators in cold blood on the streets on trial, as well.
INSKEEP: Borzou, thanks very much.
M: It's been a pleasure.
INSKEEP: Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times. He's speaking from Beirut.
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