Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Iran jails top reformer for six years


A reformist former government spokesman detained after Iran’s disputed election in June has been sentenced to six years in jail, the semi-official Fars news agency reported yesterday.

It said Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the vote, was sentenced by a court on charges including acting against national security, propaganda against the Islamic system and possessing classified documents.

The report of his jail sentence coincides with mounting tension in Iran after the death of a leading dissident ayatollah and opposition reports of clashes between the cleric’s supporters and security forces in Isfahan on Wednesday.

Ramezanzadeh, who held his post during the 1997 to 2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami, was among scores of senior pro-reform figures and activists detained after the poll on accusations of fomenting post-election unrest.

“Based on the court’s decision Ramezanzadeh was given a six-year obligatory jail sentence,” Fars quoted a Revolutionary court statement as saying, without saying when the verdict was issued.

Last month, Iranian media said reformist former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi was also sentenced to six years in jail. He was later released on bail of US$700,000 pending appeal.

Abtahi, one of dozens of leading moderates detained after the disputed election on charges of trying to topple the clerical establishment by orchestrating protests, was the most senior reformer to be jailed after the presidential election.

Thousands of people were arrested after the poll, which the opposition says was rigged in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s favor. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 have received jail sentences of up to 15 years in connection with protests after the vote, the judiciary says.

The authorities reject the opposition’s vote rigging charges and have portrayed the huge opposition protests that erupted after the election as foreign-backed.

Despite arrests and crackdowns, opposition supporters have continued to stage sporadic rallies.

Tension increased again after Saturday’s death of a dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri at the age of 87.

His death occurred in the tense run-up to Ashura on Sunday, a politically important Shiite religious commemoration that offers the opposition another opportunity to show its strength.

Meanwhile, the US accused Iran on Wednesday of increasingly behaving like a “police state” after clashes in Isfahan on Wednesday.

Hundreds of security force members surrounded the Seyed mosque, where a service for Montazeri was to be held and prevented mourners from entering, sparking the violence, opposition Web sites said.

The mourners were shouting slogans in support of Iran’s opposition Green Movement and police fired tear gas to disperse them, Web site said.

More than 50 protesters were arrested and security forces beat women and children, reports said.

“Iran is increasingly showing itself to be a police state,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. “It is using all of its levers, all of its various security elements to try to stamp out clearly the aspirations of the Iranian people for a different relationship with their government.”

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