By Charles Recknagel, RFE/RL
This unidentified woman, described as an arrested Tehran protester, was shown confessing to crimes on Iranian state television. b>
The streets of Tehran have gone quiet for the
first time in more than 10 days. Instead of gathering in downtown squares by the
tens or even hundreds of thousands, the protesters appear now to have been
forced off the streets.
The last gathering, on June 22, saw just a few hundred assemble. The protest was quickly broken up with tear gas and shots in the air as helicopters hovered overhead.
Still more fearsome for those who dared to come out may have been the silhouettes of sharpshooters in the windows of nearby buildings and policemen taking pictures of the crowd. The pictures have been used by police for arrests after rallies have ended.
By official count, 17 people have died since the protests broke out immediately following the June 12 presidential election. State radio has said that some 457 people were arrested on June 20, when the confrontations between the protesters and the police and paramilitary Basij militia were fiercest.
Now, the government is raising the stakes for the protesters still higher by showing some of those who have been arrested on state television.
On June 23, the television showed one detainee confessing to what amounts to collaboration with foreign powers against the Iranian state.
"I think we were provoked by networks like the BBC and VOA [Voice of America] to take such immoral actions," the young man said. His face was shown but he was not identified by name.
Similarly, a woman was shown saying she, too, "was influenced by VOA Persian [service] and the BBC because they were saying that the security forces were behind most of the clashes."
She said that after that "I was curious, I wanted to go out and see what was happening. I saw that it was us protesting who were making the riots. We set on fire public property, we threw stones, we attacked people's cars and we broke windows of people's houses."
Her face was pixilated on the screen and her name
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsuli said that rioters involved in postelection violence were funded by the CIA and the exiled opposition group the People's Mujahedin, or Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization.
The aired statements from the detainees come as a senior judiciary official said on June 23 that the legal system would make an example of those who had been caught.
"Those arrested in recent events will be dealt with in a way that will teach them a lesson," Ebrahim Raisi said.
Raisi said a special court had been set up to deal with the protesters. In Iran "special" courts often refers to revolutionary courts, which are tribunals outside of the usual civil court system.
Trials in revolutionary courts are behind closed doors and conducted by a single clerical judge who takes on the combined roles of prosecutor, defense lawyer, and jury. Sentences are usually multiple years in prison.
The judiciary, a conservative bastion, routinely brought reformist activists before such courts during the sharp conservative backlash that crippled the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami.
Avoiding Direct Confrontation
Raising the stakes further, Iran's best-trained and best equipped military force, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), threatened on June 23 to intervene directly. Until now, crowd control has been left to the police and the Revolutionary Guard's subsidiary, the Basij militia.
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