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Iran assassination trial reopens

TEHRAN, May 3 (Reuters) - Suspects in the assassination attempt against pro-reform strategist and presidential aide Saeed Hajjarian returned to court on Wednesday, one day after their alleged victim was released from hospital.

The official IRNA news agency said the case resumed in a Tehran Revolutionary Court in the trial of eight young men, including the accused triggerman in the gangland-style shooting on March 12 that left Hajjarian with a bullet lodged near his spinal chord.

In the first hearing, on April 25, gunman Saeed Asgar told the court he meant only to send a warning to Hajjarian when he pumped a single slug into his head at close range.

Reformist allies of Hajjarian, one of the leading lights of the movement for change grouped around President Mohammad Khatami, say the young men on trial are scapegoats for the masterminds of the attack.

They blame hardline clerics for painting Hajjarian as an apostate for his progressive views on Islam and civil society, creating an atmosphere in which young fanatics felt it was acceptable to gun him down.

On Tuesday, President Khatami welcomed Hajjarian shortly after the latter left hospital for the first time since the March 12 shooting.

``The worst form of murder and violence is when bullets confront ideas,'' IRNA quoted the president as saying. ``Nothing will be able to block the movement of a nation which seeks reforms and social renewal based on its (1979 Islamic) revolution.''

State television showed Hajjarian sitting in his wheelchair, surrounded by doctors and relatives.

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