Iran Human RightsIran presses opposition with attacks and jail time

Iran presses opposition with attacks and jail time

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New York Times: As Iran approaches the first anniversary of a contested presidential election that touched off a deep political crisis, opposition supporters remain under intense pressure, with student leaders receiving long prison terms and a prominent opposition politician and a filmmaker being attacked.

The New York Times

By WILLIAM YONG and MICHAEL SLACKMAN

TEHRAN — As Iran approaches the first anniversary of a contested presidential election that touched off a deep political crisis, opposition supporters remain under intense pressure, with student leaders receiving long prison terms and a prominent opposition politician and a filmmaker being attacked.

A former vice president, Muhammad Ali Abtahi, was attacked by a mob of men wielding cables and knives as he drove from a religious ceremony on Thursday, according to Iranian Web sites. The filmmaker, Mohammad Nourizad, was pummeled so badly when he was allowed out of his prison cell that his vision was damaged, according to a reformist Web site.

Both men were once leaders within the machinery of the Islamic republic, who became disillusioned with the direction of the state and called for change. Both were subsequently sentenced to prison for their views.

Mr. Abtahi, a vice president under President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, was sentenced to six years and is free on bail during his appeal. Mr. Nourizad, who once used his film skills to promote the state’s interests, was sentenced to three and a half years on charges of spreading propaganda against the state.

There is no way to know exactly who the attackers were, and the government credited the police with preventing Mr. Abtahi from being seriously harmed.

Reformists have been under pressure since the government succeeded in suppressing an uprising that began last June, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of a second presidential term in a landslide.

The filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who took the opposition’s message to film festivals around the world, is on a hunger strike in prison. Recently, two student leaders, Bahareh Hedayat and Milad Asadi, were sentenced to prison terms, nine and a half years for Mr. Hedayat and seven years for Mr. Asadi, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said.

“They think that this fear can prevent people from protesting, but they don’t see the other side of the coin,” said a former reform journalist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “The effect on society is exactly the opposite of what they intend.”

The general outlines of the attack on Mr. Abtahi were reported by Parleman News, a reformist Web site. He was set upon by “plainclothes men” as he left a ceremony at a mosque in Shahr-e-Rey, a poor neighborhood in southern Tehran known for its support of Mr. Ahmadinejad, the Web site said. The term “plainclothes men” is often used to describe Basiji militia members.

“A car swerved in front of me, and several motorcycle riders attacked my car with kicks, cables and knives; they smashed the windows and threw tear gas into the car,” Mr. Abtahi was quoted as saying. He said it was a “miracle” that he had been able to get away. The semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that about 150 pro-government paramilitary members were protesting outside the mosque while Mr. Abtahi was inside. Borna News, a pro-government Web site, quoted Mr. Abtahi as saying that “extremists from both sides” were intent on spreading chaos.

Mr. Nourizad, the filmmaker, was sentenced to prison after posting on his blog three critical letters addressed to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

William Yong reported from Tehran, and Michael Slackman from Cairo.

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