TEHRAN - Former President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday trial confessions by moderates accused of fomenting post-election unrest were made under extraordinary conditions and were invalid, an Iranian news agency reported.
At Tuesday's trial, the fourth since June polls denounced by moderates as fraudulent, senior reformer and Khatami ally Saeed Hajjarian was reported as saying he had made major mistakes during the election by presenting incorrect analyses.
I apologize to the Iranian nation for those mistakes.
A prosecutor demanded maximum punishment for Hajjarian who is accused of acting against national security, a crime which can carry the death sentence.
These confessions are invalid and have been obtained under extraordinary conditions ... such claims are sheer lies and false, Khatami, who backed the main moderate candidate in the election, was quoted as saying by the ILNA news agency.
Also in the dock on Tuesday were several other moderate figures, including former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh and former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh -- both of whom held their positions under Khatami.
All were charged with fomenting huge street protests that followed the June presidential election that returned hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; some confessed to mistakes.
Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was also accused of acting against national security and espionage at Tuesday's trial, charges likely to anger Washington.
Tajbakhsh also told the court that Khatami had met with billionaire financier George Soros in New York, Iranian media reported, but Khatami said this was also a lie.
Iranian officials have portrayed the post-election protests as a foreign-backed bid to topple the clerical establishment.
The June 12 vote has plunged Iran into its most serious internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and has exposed deep divisions in the establishment's ruling elite.
NO MASS BURIAL
Defeated moderate candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi say the vote was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election, a charge the authorities deny.
Analysts see the mass trials as an attempt to uproot the moderate opposition and put an end to opposition protests.
Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists and activists, have been detained since the election. Many are still in jail.
Moderate politicians and influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of Ahmadinejad, have called for the detainees' immediate release.
One of those in the dock in Tuesday's trial accused Rafsanjani's son of encouraging moderates to allege that the poll was rigged. Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani denied the claims.
In a televised debate before the election, Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani's family of corruption. The official IRNA news agency said on Wednesday Rafsanjani's family had issued a complaint to the judiciary against Ahmadinejad, but it did not give details.
Karoubi has also angered hardliners by claiming some imprisoned protesters were raped and abused in jail, a charge government officials have rejected as baseless.
But a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the cases of detainees said it would be ready to consider any evidence submitted by the pro-reform cleric.
Karoubi was quoted as saying this week that four people who say they were sexually abused in jail were ready to provide testimony to parliament, but that they did not feel secure.
Committee member Farhad Tajari said the judiciary chief and the speaker of parliament had given the necessary security guarantees to those who are ready to testify about sexual abuse in prison but that he did not see the claims as reliable.
The reformist website Norooz said last week tens of people were buried in unnamed graves in the largest cemetery in Tehran on July 12 and 15 -- about a month after the election, suggesting those buried had been protestors.
But a former head of the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery said no mass burial had ever taken place there. A lawmaker said on Tuesday a parliamentary committee was looking into a rumor of burials at the site.
The losing candidates say 69 people were killed in the unrest but the authorities put the death toll at 26.
(Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Ralph Boulton)