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It's a grotesque and tragic sight, but in Iran it's unfortunately becoming a routine one: prominent journalists, academics, lawyers, human rights activists and former government officials shuffling into a Tehran court in prison garb, admitting to crimes against the state in what are obviously coerced confessions.
For the fourth time since the government crackdown on dissidents following the disputed presidential election in June, the Iranian government has paraded more than 100 gaunt Iranians in front of state media cameras in a mass trial. The defendants have no access to defense attorneys and no evidence is presented. Many friends and family members who have seen them say they show clear signs of physical and mental abuse.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the proceedings "a show trial" that demonstrates the Iranian government is afraid of its own people. The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders called the judicial proceedings "a travesty."
In the August 25th session, Saeed Hajjarian, a prominent Iranian reformist, and Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh were among those placed before the cameras to make incriminating statements.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly noted that Kian Tajbakhsh was given no lawyer for his defense, and said the charges against the American academic are "without foundation":
"Mr. Tajbakhsh poses absolutely no threat to the Iranian government or to its national security. He played absolutely no role in the election, and he's a scholar. ... He has really devoted his life to promoting understanding between the Iranian people and the American people. And he's scrupulously stayed politically neutral."
State Department spokesman Kelly said "the regime in Iran has to respect the will of the Iranian people and respect their fundamental human rights. ... The world is watching what's going on in Iran right now," he said, "and we will bear witness."