Medieval torture used on protestors

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi accused the authorities on Sunday of using "medieval torture" to extract confessions from protesters on trial over the wave of post-election unrest.

Former president Mohammad Khatami also said Saturday's mass trial of 100 protesters and prominent reformists was against the constitution, putting him at loggerheads with hardliners who openly accused him and Mousavi of "treason."

Another 10 people were brought before a revolutionary court on Sunday on charges relating to the massive street protests that erupted after hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's bitterly disputed election victory in June.

And as the factional feuding escalated, the powerful hardline wing in Iran took aim at both opposition leaders, accusing them of trying to lead a "velvet revolution" and lodging a judicial complaint against Mousavi.

"The scenes that we saw were a clumsy preparation for the launch of the 10th government," Mousavi said on his website of Saturday's trial, held just days before Ahmadinejad is to be sworn in on Wednesday.

"They expect a court, which itself is fraudulent, to prove that there was no fraud committed in the election," said Mousavi, a former post-revolution premier who lost to Ahmadinejad in what he said was a rigged election.

"What are they trying to convince people of... by relying on reports from reporters nobody has heard of and relying on confessions which obviously bore the hallmarks medieval-era torture?"

His comments came after some top reformists, including a prominent Khatami aide, made a dramatic climbdown by at the trial, saying Ahmadinejad's victory was clean and that they had been pushed into demonstrating against the results.

Khatami also denounced the trial, the first since Ahmadinejad's re-election set off the worst crisis in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic and exposing deep differences among the ruling elite.

"What was done yesterday is against the constitution, regular laws and rights of the citizens," Khatami's office quoted him as telling a group of political activists and lawmakers.

Khatami, who served two terms as president before being succeeded by Ahmadinejad in 2005, said the court had relied on "confessions taken under certain circumstances which are not valid."

Those on trial face charges including rioting, vandalism, having ties with counter-revolutionary groups and plotting to launch a "velvet revolution."

They face a maximum jail term of five years if convicted, unless they are charged with being a "mohareb" or enemy of God, which can carry the death penalty.

Around 2,000 protesters, reformists, political activists and journalists were initially detained by authorities in a crackdown on the massive public protests over the vote, which Mousavi has branded a "shameful fraud."

About 30 people were killed and hundreds wounded. Most protesters have been released but around 250 still remain behind bars.

Another 10 protesters were put on trial before a revolutionary court in closed session on Sunday, the ISNA news agency reported.

And a group of Iranian MPs have filed a complaint to the judiciary against Mousavi over the post-election violence, the Fars news agency reported.

"Those who issued statements and directed recent riots should be accountable for the bloodshed and go on trial," said Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, a hardline member of parliament's judicial commission.

Rahbar said Mousavi and Khatami were the main culprits behind the unrest.

The rival declarations underscore the scale of the political infighting in Iran, which has also seen Ahmadinejad come under fire even from own hardline supporters and triggered warnings of further radicalisation.

"Evidence of Khatami and Mousavi's treason unveiled," thundered the headline in the hardline Kayhan newspaper.

"The plot leaders are corrupt people whose unforgiveable crimes include killing innocent people and cooperating with foreign enemies. But trying and punishing the mid-ranking elements cannot be the end of story," it said.

"If the main instigators of unrest who are known are not confronted, they will continue conspiring."

However, another defeated candidate, former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai, also called for security forces who cracked down on protesters to be brought to justice, blaming the unrest on "rioters and rogue elements and officials who trampled on the law."

Conservative cleric Hojatoleslam Abolhassan Navab, a senior member of the Association of Military Clergy, said Iran was being radicalised by the internal feuding.

"Some people from both sides are taking the country towards radicalisation. It seems that nobody wants to restore calm in the country," he was quoted as saying by ISNA.