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Iran resumes mass trial of activists, protesters

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Dozens of opposition activists and protesters stood trial in Tehran Saturday on charges of rioting and plotting to topple the ruling Islamic system following the disputed presidential election, Iran's state media reported.

The mass trial in Tehran's hardline Revolutionary Court demonstrates the government's resolve to discredit the reform movement in one blow and bring an end to anti-government protests that have persisted since the June 12 election.

This is the second day of an extraordinary mass trial that started a week ago, although those standing trial Saturday were not the same defendants who attended the court last week. Saturday's session saw new faces including several prominent reformist politicians as well a 23-year old French academic arrested in July.

During the session, a prosecutor read out an indictment outlining what he said was plans by the U.S. and Britain to foment unrest in Iran with the aim of toppling the ruling Islamic system through a "soft overthrow", the official IRNA news agency reported.

The vague indictment also accused the two powers of providing financial assistance to Iran's reformists to undermine hard-line clerics within the ruling system.

Iran has tried to portray the protests following the June 12 election as being led and encouraged by foreign powers, not fueled by internal dissent.

Among those standing trial is Clotilde Reiss, a 23-year-old French woman who was reportedly arrested at Tehran airport on July 1. Senior European Union diplomats have called on Iran to immediately release the French woman lecturer jailed on charges of spying linked to riots over last month's presidential election.

Iranian defendants included Ali Tajernia, a former reformist lawmaker, Shahaboddin Tabatabaei, a prominent leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist political party and Ahmad Zeidabadi, an outspoken journalist opposing hard-liners.

Iran's reformist and moderate parties have denounced the mass trial, describing is a "ridiculous show", saying the confessions were obtained from the defendants under duress.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in days of street protests after the election, denouncing official results that declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.