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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 17:16 GMT
Uproar as Iran judge accused
Akbar Ganji in court
Mr Ganji complained of being brutally treated in prison
By Jim Muir in Tehran

A leading Iranian journalist, Akbar Ganji, has gone on trial in Teheran accused of taking part in a controversial conference in Germany earlier this year on Iran's political future.

He is among 17 reformist figures who are charged with undermining Iranian national security after attending the April meeting in Berlin.

Pro-reform students
Pro-reform students still organisation gatherings
In scenes rarely witnessed in Iran's revolutionary courts, Mr Ganji disrupted the start of his trial by protesting that he had been beaten up in jail by warders, and had been physically forced to wear prison clothing for his court appearance.

He accused the judge personally of having ordered his humiliation - which the judge denied.

Spirit of defiance

Much of the ensuing discussion was over Mr Ganji's prison conditions and whether he should be treated as a political detainee.

Finally, the charges were read out. Like most of the other prominent reformists appearing in a series of trials in connection with the Berlin conference, he is accused of trying to undermine national security and of making propaganda against the Islamic regime.

Heckler during the Berlin conference
The conference was interrupted by anti-regime elements
The conference had been disrupted by hardcore anti-regime opposition elements in exile who heckled, danced and even stripped.

Several other charges aginst Mr Ganji stemmed from statements he had made in Germany which were deemed offensive to the principles of the Islamic republic and its leadership.

Mr Ganji smiled derisively as the charges were read out.

He has been in prison since he returned from Berlin in April, but has clearly not lost his spirit of defiance.

'Death penalty'

One of the country's leading investigative journalists, he also faces prosecution in the special press courts following revelations he made about the serial murders of dissident writers and intellectuals two years ago.

These turned out to involve officials from the intelligence ministry.

Also appearing at Thursday's trial was a translator, Khalil Rostam-Khani.

He faces similar charges arising from the Berlin conference, but is also accused of belonging to a communist group and cooperating with counter-revolutionary organisations.

It has been reported that the prosecution has asked for the death sentence against Mr Rostam-Khani.

The case is expected to continue for at least another week.

Earlier this week one of Iran's leading female politicians, Jamileh Kadivar, went on trial accused of similar charges arising from the Berlin conference.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran outcry over rowdy conference
20 Apr 00 | Middle East
Court summons for Iranian reformists
04 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
23 Oct 00 | Middle East
Row deepens over Iranian cleric
21 Oct 00 | Middle East
'Moderate' paper faces Iranian court
13 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian MPs pledge to continue reform
07 Nov 00 | Middle East
Popular Iranian reformer on trial
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