2009 Iran poll protests trial

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2009 Iran poll protests trial refers to a series of trials conducted after 2009 Iranian presidential election. Over 140 defendants,[1] including prominent politicians, academics and writers, were put on trial for participating in the 2009 Iranian election protests.[2] The defendants were accused of orchestrating "colour revolution" in Iran,[3] and “exposing cases of violations of human rights.”[4] The trials were widely condemned by world leaders both in Iran and worldwide as a "Show trial" with coerced confessions.[5]


On August 1, 2009 110 people were put on trial, including prominent reformists, journalists and writers. Among them were former Vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament and Industry Minister Behzad Nabavi, reformist lawmaker Ali Tajernia, Shahaboddin Tabatabaei, journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, and others. Other people put on trial include French Embassy employee, Nazak Afshar, nine British Embassy employees, including the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Hossein Rassam, Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari, and French academic Clotilde Reiss.[6] On August 16, 25 more defendants were added to the trial.[5]

Throughout the trials, family members of the defendants and others gathered in front of the court to condemn the trial. Witnesses reported that riot police attacked the protesters outside the court. The wife of detained reformist lawmaker Ali Tajernia was arrested while outside the court.[7]

On August 28, President Ahmadinejad called on judiciary officials to “decisively” and “mercilessly” prosecute those "who organized, incited and pursued the plans of the enemies," remarks called "clearly aimed at Mir Hussein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.[8]

Charges and confessions[edit]

The charges included "rioting", "vandalism" and "acting against national security", "disturbing public order," having ties with counter-revolutionary groups according to official sources.[9][10]

In a press conference shown on state television several of the defendants – Abtahi, Kian Tajbakhsh, Maziar Bahari – made confessions and withdrew charges against the election results that some of them had made earlier. Critics of the prosecution and the confessions by the accused, such as Pamela Kilpadi, say the confessions, "have been forced under duress from (people) being held in an undisclosed location without access to a lawyer, family, or friends, in violation of the human rights treaties to which Iran is supposedly a signatory,"[11] Prosecutors have warned against questioning the legitimacy of the trial, threatening to prosecute doubters.[12] The prosecutor read an indictment on August 8, 2009, that accused United States and Britain of stoking the unrest in an attempt to create a "soft overthrow" of the Iranian government.[6] Another detainee allegedly confessed to spying for the United Arab Emirates Intelligence Ministry as well as the United States.[13]


The prosecution is led by Saeed Mortazavi, the Prosecutor General of Tehran,[14] who has been called a "hardliner" for his role in the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi,[15] and the shutting down of 60 pro-reform newspapers.[16] The sentences for the charges range from a short imprisonment to capital punishment.[14]

Complaints about access and rights[edit]

According to journalist Borzou Daragahi, "only reporters with news organizations controlled by Ahmadinejad or his loyalists were granted access to the courtroom."[17]

Saleh Nikbakht, who represents some of the most prominent defendants, has complained of being sidelined from the trial. He told Radio Farda

"I have repeatedly notified the judiciary that I have agreed to represent the defendants at their request, but I was never granted permission to see the detainees and I wasn't notified about today's trial. ... I first heard about the trial today at 11:30 a.m. on television. When I went there, the doors were closed and they did not let me in."[18]

The families of the detained have also complained about the lack of openness in the trial. According to the website Norooznews.ir in a letter to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani they said

"The lawyers are not even informed of where the hearings are held, nor have they studied the dossiers, ... We ask you, as Iran's top judge, to bring the ongoing judicial case back on the right track to keep the judiciary from losing more face."[17]


So far, five people have received death sentences for their parts in the protest.

Two people were convicted for being members of a monarchist group and a third was convicted for his alleged ties to a terrorist group and for links to the People's Mujahedin of Iran.[19] The other two were convicted of ties to armed opposition groups.[20]

Iran's former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi was sentenced to six years in prison for taking part in the protests.[21]

Prisoner abuse[edit]

Opposition leaders have claimed that the prisoners have been tortured and raped in prison. UN human rights experts, opposition leaders, and world leaders condemned the abuse, which has been compared to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.[22]

Former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has called the treatment of prisoners on trial "medieval torture".[23] Former chairman of Iranian parliament Mehdi Karroubi has stated that male and female prisoners have been raped in the prison and their genitals torn. In a letter to the head of Assembly of Experts he asked the head of the assembly to investigate abuses.[24] Amnesty International's secretary general has also called for an investigation into allegations of torture and rape in detention.[25] Iran's police chief, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, acknowledged that the prisoners had been abused and raped.[26]

Ali Larijani, Iran's parliament speaker, has denied that prisoners were abused.[27] In response to denials, several journalists and activists who were detained in the prisons, reported their own personal experience. On August 16, 2009, Fereshteh Ghazi, in an article in Rooz, wrote about her time in prison, describing the torture and sexual violence in Iranian prisons.[28]

Additionally, several of the prisoners died while in prison. Authorities claimed that they had "pre-existing conditions" that led to their deaths, however, examining of the bodies would show signs of torture and broken bones. At least three of the detained protesters have died while in prison at the Kahrizak detention center.[29] One prisoner, 24-year-old Amir Javadifar was clubbed by so badly that he was taken to a hospital and treated before being taken to Evin Prison. He would die while in prison and his father was later called to collect his corpse. Medical reports on his body would show that he had been beaten, had several broken bones and his toenails had been pulled out.[30] Another detainee, Amir Hossein Tufanian, who was in the Kahrizak detention center died while there. After his death, police allegedly demanded that his family pay thousands of dollars for his body. When the family protested that they had no money, they were told they could have it for free if they did not discuss it to anyone. Examinations would show that he had been tortured and had two broken arms.[30] The mysterious death of an Iranian prison doctor on November 10, 2009, continued to raise suspicions. The doctor, Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, was the only doctor serving at the Kahrizak detention center. He came under scrutiny of the Iranian government when he refused to change the death certificate of Mohsen Rouhalamini, a protester detained at Kahrizakt, to meningitis rather than from torture and beatings. Conflicting reports from Iranian authorities regarding Dr. Pourandarjani's death led to massive outcries from opposition leaders.[31]

Many prisoners were raped while detained. In Tehran, at least 37 men and women claim to have been raped by their jailers. Doctors' reports say that two males, aged 17 and 22, died as a result of internal bleeding from being raped.[30]

There is some question as to the effectiveness of the confessions to turn public opinion in Iran. One observer has stated that "so far," the trials "have failed to accrue" the "fearsome power" of the Moscow show trials or earlier public confessions of Iranian secular leftists and MeK guerrillas in 1982, due to broad public support for the prisoners' cause and the "subversive" power of parodies and criticism of the trials on the Internet.[32]

On November 28, 2018 guards in khoy women prison, north west of Iran attacked inmate Zeynab Jalalian and confiscated all her belongings. She was arrested in February 2007.[33]

International response[edit]

Human rights activists and Iranian intellectuals wrote a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay calling the trials "crimes against humanity."[34]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the trials a "sign of weakness" and that it shows Iran "is afraid of its own people" in an interview with CNN.[35] British Foreign Secretary David Miliband condemned the trial and said that accusing British Embassy staff of stoking the unrest "only brings further discredit to the Iranian regime."[6]

The Swedish Presidency of the European Union expressed concern over the trial and demanded that the prisoners be released promptly, saying "The Presidency reiterates that actions against one EU country — citizen or embassy staff — is considered an action against all of EU, and will be treated accordingly."[36]

On September 24, 2009, demonstrators from around the world gathered in New York City to protest against Ahmadinejad's speech to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.[37] [38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Iran announce trial dates for detained reformists". AFP. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
  2. ^ Iran puts 100 protesters on trial. BBC News. August 1, 2009.
  3. ^ "آغاز دادگاه چهره‌هاي شاخص اصلاح‌طلب". Archived from the original on August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  4. ^ "The Iran Show by Laura Secor. August 31, 2009". Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Iran defies condemnation, expands opposition trial." By NASSER KARIMI (AP) August 16, 2009
  6. ^ a b c "Iran resumes mass trial of activists, protesters". USA Today. August 8, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  7. ^ "Iran resumes mass trial of activists, protesters". USA Today. August 8, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  8. ^ Ahmadinejad Urges Prosecution of Political Rivals MICHAEL SLACKMAN, August 28, 2009
  9. ^ Pouladi, Farhad (July 31, 2009). Top Iran reformists on trial after post-election riots. AFP.
  10. ^ "Iran starts trial of election protesters". Press TV. Archived from the original on August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  11. ^ Athanasiadis, Iason (August 2, 2009). Mass trial of Iranian protesters deepens nation's divides. The Christian Science Monitor.
  12. ^ Worth, Robert; Fathi, Nazila (August 5, 2009). As Ahmadinejad Is Sworn In for 2nd Term, Deep Fissures Are Laid Bare. The New York Times.
  13. ^ UAE implicated in Iran election trial. Press TV. August 8, 2009. Accessed August 9, 2009. Archived August 11, 2009.
  14. ^ a b Iran’s rulers put 30 people on trial for opposition ‘conspiracy’
  15. ^ Nazile, Fathi (November 4, 2008). "Arrests of Dissident Iranians Seen as Hard-Line Retaliation". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
  16. ^ "World Briefing: Iran: Top Prosecutor". The New York Times. May 1, 2003. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
  17. ^ a b Iranian hard-liners target 2 major reform parties. August 26, 2009
  18. ^ "Prominent Iranian Reformists Go On Trial For Post-Election Unrest – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2009". Archived from the original on August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  19. ^ "Iran sentences three to death over vote unrest". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 12 October 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  20. ^ "Iran: 5 Protesters Sentenced to Death". The New York Times. November 18, 2009. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  21. ^ Percival, Jenny (November 22, 2009). "Former vice president of Iran sentenced over election protests". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 November 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  22. ^ "Pro-reform party blames Iran's president for abuse". Retrieved August 13, 2009.[dead link]
  23. ^ Torture claim against Iran trial. August 2, 2009
  24. ^ James Wray and Ulf Stabe. "Opposition party leader claims sexual abuse in Iranian prisons". Archived from the original on 2009-08-17. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  25. ^ [Independent investigation needed into rape and torture in detention in Iran. August 17, 2009]
  26. ^ "Iran's police chief acknowledges prisoner abuse". Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 12, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  27. ^ "Iran speaker rejects detainee rape claims". CNN. August 13, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  28. ^ "تکان دهنده تر از دروغ - roozonline.com". Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
  29. ^ "Pro-reform party blames Iran's president for abuse". Associated Press. Retrieved August 13, 2009.[dead link]
  30. ^ a b c "Ahmadinejad's Basiji run a regime of rape, murder to suppress critics". The Australian. Retrieved October 4, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ "Death of an Iran prison doctor raises suspicion". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 23 November 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  32. ^ "The Iran Show by Laura Secor. August 31, 2009". Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  33. ^ Personal Belongings of Zeynab Jalalian Confiscated at Khoy Prison
  34. ^ "British, French embassy workers on trial over Iran protests". CNN. August 9, 2009. Archived from the original on 9 August 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  35. ^ "Clinton says trial shows Iran 'is afraid of its own people'". CNN. August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  36. ^ Presidency statement on the post-election trial in Tehran Swedish Presidency of the EU – August 8, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2009. Archived September 7, 2009.
  37. ^ "Demonstrators in New York Protest Against Iranian President Ahmadinejad". VOA. September 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 2, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  38. ^ "Iranians protest in New York ..." Global Post. September 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 2, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Yahya R. Kamalipour, ed. Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age: The 2009 Presidential Election Uprising in Iran (Rowman & Littlefield; 2010) 314 pages

External links[edit]