TEHRAN - An Iranian prosecutor called on Tuesday for maximum punishment of a senior reformer for acting against national security, a crime punishable by death, in the fourth mass trial of moderates after the disputed election.

Saeed Hajjarian, disabled after an assassination attempt against him in 2000, was among several prominent opposition figures in the dock charged with fomenting the huge street protests that followed the June poll.

The vote plunged Iran into its most serious internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing deep divisions in its ruling elite and further straining ties with the West.

The prosecutor ... called for maximum punishment for Hajjarian considering the importance of the case, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Analysts regard the trials as an attempt by the authorities to uproot the moderate opposition and put an end to protests that erupted after the election, which defeated candidates say was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Several of the accused are members of Iran's leading reformist party, Mosharekat, whose website denounced the latest Revolutionary Court session as another show trial forming part of what it called an ugly scenario.

It said some 200 relatives of those on trial gathered outside the court and that police failed to disperse them.

At the same trial in Tehran, the state broadcaster said Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was accused of acting against national security and of espionage, a charge likely to anger Washington.

Those on trial also included former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh and business newspaper editor Saeed Laylaz, an outspoken critic of Ahmadinejad's economic policies.

Some, such as former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh and former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, had appeared also at an earlier trial session.


IRNA said the accused were the plotters of recent riots and disturbances after the vote, which the authorities have portrayed as a foreign-backed bid to topple the Islamic Republic's clerical leadership.

State television showed Hajjarian -- a former deputy intelligence minister turned architect of the reform movement -- and fellow accused sitting in rows in the courtroom in prison clothes as they listened to a prosecutor reading the charges.

Hajjarian is charged with acting against national security and propaganda against the Islamic establishment by spreading suspicion of vote-rigging ... and provoking illegal protests, IRNA quoted the indictment as saying.

He had also met with a person linked to MI6, Britain's global intelligence-gathering organization, IRNA said.

In a statement read out in court by an associate, Hajjarian said he had made major mistakes during the election by presenting incorrect analyses ... and I apologize to the Iranian nation for those mistakes, Fars News Agency reported.
Most of the accused former officials held their positions during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who backed moderate opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the election.

While many of their aides and allies have been detained and put on trial, authorities have not yet arrested Mousavi and Khatami despite repeated calls from hardliners.

Western countries and human rights groups have condemned the trials. After the first session on August 1, Mousavi said confessions by some of the accused were made under duress.

Iran has held three mass trials already this month of more than 100 detainees, including a former vice president and other senior politicians, on charges including acting against national security, which is punishable by death under Iran's Islamic law.

A French teaching assistant and two Iranians working for the British and French embassies were among those tried earlier.

No sentences have been announced after these trials.

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.

Iran rejects vote rigging accusations and accuses the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of inciting the unrest, in which at least 26 people were killed.

(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Hemming)