Chavez orders ambassador back to Colombia

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi (right) and ex-president Mohammad Khatami blasted the trials.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered his ambassador Saturday to go back to Colombia amid tense diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The staffer was identified as locally employed political analyst Hossein Rassam. A Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN: “This is completely unacceptable and directly contradicts assurances we have repeatedly been given by Iranian officials. “We deplore these trials and the so called confessions of prisoners who have been denied their basic human rights. Our ambassador in Tehran has demanded early clarification of the position of the Iranian authorities. We will then decide how to respond to this latest outrage.” Earlier Saturday, Iran’s state-controlled media reported that the trials of nearly 100 Iranians arrested following the demonstrations had resumed. Among those named in court, according to Press TV, was Clotilde Reiss, a French academic arrested on espionage charges. The mass trials began a week ago with a closed-door session and were continuing Saturday in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, said the semiofficial Press TV. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami have blasted the trials, saying that detainees have been coerced into confessions through the use of torture.

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This week, human rights activists and Iranian intellectuals penned a letter to Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. It describes human rights abuses in Iran and asks the Security Council to approve the matter as “crimes against humanity” and refer it to the International Criminal Court. “This is a regime that in an organized manner, arrests its opponents and critics, and tortures them in solitary cells,” says the letter, signed by 380 people so far. Human rights organizations have decried the detainee trials, calling them a farce and a way to intimidate Iranians who speak out against the government. Last week, top Iranian clerics and seminary students in the holy city of Qom also voiced their opposition to the trials calling them “illegal” and “immoral.” Iran’s clerical establishment defended the trials, calling those arrested enemies of the Islamic republic. In the weekly Friday sermon, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani said opposition efforts would prove futile. “Their (the enemies) plots, conspiracies and moves against the Islamic Republic have all proved futile since the very first day (the Islamic ruling system was established), and they will remain so due to the vigilance of our nation which knows its enemies,” Kashani said in his address at Tehran University, according to the Fars News Agency. Among the charges the detainees face are: — Attacking military facilities using firearms, cold weapons and fire bombs — Attacking government facilities and setting fire to them — Destruction of public property — Creating panic in public — Beating up members of the security forces Those on trial include reformist politicians, lawyers and journalists, including Seyyed Mohammad Abtahi, a former vice-president, and Maziar Bahari, a reporter for Newsweek magazine. Abtahi’s wife, Fahimeh Mousavinejad, told Human Rights Watch that she learned about her husband’s trial through media reports. She said that she had been able to visit her husband only once, on July 30. “We sat together in a room where a video camera filmed us, and if we deviated slightly from personal affairs, we were reprimanded,” she told Human Rights Watch. Abtahi “was weak and unhealthy, his body was shaking. He had lost more than 36 pounds. I was surprised to see him taken into court in that condition.” The detainees were arrested in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 election that handed hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest the election results, called fraudulent by opposition leaders. More than 1,000 people were arrested. The trials were to have resumed Thursday, but were postponed to Saturday because of a request by defense lawyers, Press TV said.