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Reformers lash out at surprise death sentences over July unrest

TEHRAN, Sept 13 (AFP) - Iranian reformers lashed out Monday at the head of Tehran's revolutionary court after his shock announcement in a newspaper interview Sunday of four death sentences handed down in connection with July's student riots.

Prominent liberal and reformist figures said Gholamhossein Rahbarpur (see photo) had raised serious questions by announcing the sentences in the hardline Jomhuri Eslami paper before there had been any public word about the trial of the four and called for all details of the case to be made public.

"The details should be given to the public and the press, not just one newspaper," Mehrangiz Kar, an outspoken reformist known for her work on women's rights, told the pro-reform Akhbar-e-Eqtesad daily.

It "not only made the judiciary's handling of sensitive cases doubtful, but was also inappropriate from a political point of view," Kar said, adding that the surprise announcement "created many questions which remain unresolved."

"Were the rights of the accused respected? Did they have a lawyer?" she asked. Mahmud Alizadeh Tabatabai, an attorney who sits on Tehran's municipal council, called for a "public trial" of the four, accused of being the prime instigators of the six days of riots that erupted after a student protest at Tehran university was attacked by security forces and Islamic hardliners.

"We still do not know for certain what happened at the university or during the unrest," he told the paper, adding that "internal and external pressures will increase on the government of President Mohammad Khatami" over the handling of the matter.

"It will have negative consequences both inside and outside the country," he warned.

Another leading reformer, Serajedin Miremadi, said that Rahbarpur's announcement "looks less like a judicial announcement and far more like a political decision" taken on behalf of the regime's conservatives.

"I hope that (judiciary chief) Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi will react," he said.

Rahbarpur's surprise announcement -- which said that the supreme court had already confirmed two of the sentences -- was the first news of the outcome of legal proceedings against those charged in connection with the riots.

He said the four, whom he did not name, "had organized links with certain political groupings."

Among the most high profile arrests were a student organizer whose videotaped confession was broadcast on state television shortly after the riots, and four leaders of a banned but previously tolerated nationalist opposition group here.

More than 1,400 people in all were arrested in connection with the unrest, triggered when police attacked a Tehran university dormitory where students had been demonstrating against the closure of a leading pro-reform newspaper by a conservative court.

Six days of bloody rioting erupted in Tehran and the unrest -- the worst here since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution -- also spread to the provincial capital of Tabriz, where students said at least 15 people, three of them women, suffered gunshot wounds after security forces opened fire on a student sit-in.

Iranian officials said three people were killed in all while students and moderate newspapers said at least five people had been killed and dozens injured, many of whom they said were later abducted from Tehran hospitals by the secret police.


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