Mohammad Ali Abtahi faces prison for dissent in Iran

Daylife/Reuters Picture used by permission – passed by Iranian censors

A former Iranian vice president has been sentenced to six years in jail after being accused of fomenting unrest to overthrow the government.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi is the most senior reformer to face imprisonment following the disputed presidential election in June. Abtahi was vice president for parliamentary and legal affairs during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami.

His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said he planned to appeal against the verdict. He has 20 days to submit the appeal. Abtahi was released on $700,000 bail after the verdict was delivered…

Iran’s security forces have warned the opposition not to take part in demonstrations, in an attempt to avoid a revival of the protests that erupted after the presidential elections on 12 June in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured a second term. The turmoil after the election was the worst in Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution. Authorities deny vote-rigging and portrayed the unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state…

Iran’s judiciary said last week that five people have been sentenced to death and 81 have received jail terms of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the poll, but it did not give their names.

My personal association with freedom fighters in Iran goes back to the days of the resistance to CIA-led gangsters overthrowing the democratically-elected Mossadegh government. The contradictions are tough.

After all, accusations of foreign intervention, deceit and gangsterism by the United States are rooted in legitimate history. Our own sleazy support of reactionaries and monarchies in the Middle East don’t inspire automatic trust in the opposition to Islamic Republics of any flavor.

Still, reluctance to allow a broader democracy in the nation which led that fight in the region is despicable. A political decision resented by Iranians that matches their contempt for the hypocrites in Congress and the Knesset who have suddenly discovered a need for freedom.