"In light of two crucial upcoming reports on Iran by UN-affiliated bodies, namely Mohammad El Baradei's report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's nuclear program and the UN Human Rights Commission report on the state of human rights in this country, the just handed out hefty sentences on the nationalist-religious leaders can be an alarming development," the editorial in the English-language daily pointed out.
The Revolutionary court on Saturday passed moderate to heavy jail sentences ranging from 4-13 years on 15 prominent nationalist-religious figures with Sahabi, one of the most well-known of these political dissidents, receiving a 11 year prison term. Sahabi was also a political prisoner in pre-revolutionary Iran and had served 12 years in jail.
Most of these nationalist-religious figures found guilty of conspiring against the Islamic Republic are middle aged and older gentlemen in their 60s and 70s with backgrounds in academia and journalism as well as in being social and political activists.
Among the more conspicuous characteristics of the verdicts meted out on these individuals are rather lengthy bans on "social rights". In the case of Sahabi for example, the 74 year old former academic must serve an eleven year jail sentence as well as an additional ten year ban on his "social rights," it noted.
Defense attorneys for the accused have raised serious objections about the verdicts, the due process and in camera nature of the trials and the qualifications of the court to try this case, the paper believes.
The issue becomes all the more troublesome considering foreign reports of the last few days that Washington is exerting intensive pressure on the IAEA on the tone, content and conclusions of El Baradei's June 15 report, the paper noted.
The fact that the Revolutionary Court has been unable to convict the accused of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic system but only found them guilty of acting and propagating against national security, can be construed as the "weak merit of the prosecution's case."
The heavy verdicts will either be overturned or upheld in appellate courts, the daily wrote.
In case of reversal, "it will damage the international prestige of our judicial system since it would be interpreted as disarray in our courts, where inexperienced judges issue fallacious verdicts that need to be overturned during the appeals process, which would generate a great deal of negative publicity for our system," the article added.
However, should the sentences be upheld during the appellate proceedings, it would signal that the judiciary is passing out verdicts without consideration to Iran's position internationally and its possible repercussions, it said.
"At this most fateful and critical of junctures both regionally and internationally, everyone within the system should be more sensitive to the prevailing circumstances and careful about their actions," the paper noted responsible officials as saying.
It must be noted that the verdicts announced last year on the leaders of the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI), which gave rise to a lot of negative press against the system as well as led to widespread protests is still pending, the paper reminded in conclusion.
... Payvand News - 5/12/03 ... --