3QD friend, Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, over at PBS Frontline (via Andrew Sullivan):
More than a hundred detainees have been on trial for the past two months in what have been widely condemned by human rights organizations as “show trials” without minimal adherence to standards of due process and fair trials. The defendants are a mixture of well-known personalities, regular street protesters, and a small group who were detained before the election and accused of connections with opposition groups.
The inclusion of the latter group, arrested in April 2009, well before the June 12 election, in trials connected with post-election unrest has been somewhat of a mystery until now. The first set of death sentences was issued against this group, which includes three people accused of having communications with a small pro-Monarchist group known as Anjoman Padeshahi Iran and one person accused of making contacts with the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization.
It appears the prosecutor intentionally threw these cases in among the post-election defendants to establish a precedent for bringing the charge of Moharebeh [“taking up arms against God”] in the mass indictments. By condemning these four defendants to death, the Judiciary has set the stage for justifying further execution sentences against ordinary protesters as well as well known politicians, journalists, and dissidents who are also on trial.
The four defendants sentenced to death are not guilty of any violent actions and their indictments clearly state that the Intelligence Ministry arrested them “before they could engage in any action.” Even under the existing laws, they could not be sentenced to death in fair trials. However, by using them as a front in a public relations ploy to justify death sentences in post-election trials, the government is pursuing two goals. First, the government is aiming to instill fear among reform-oriented Iranians, and raising the cost of participation in further protests, by signaling its power and determination to apply the death penalty at will. The second intent is to lay the groundwork for further political executions by desensitizing the broader population to state-sponsored violence.