August 11, 2009
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, after talking to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton displays his disgust concerning Iran’s “show trial” – comparing them to Stalin’s show trials. Zakaria’s friend and colleague, Maziar Bahari, who is a Newsweek reporter and documentary filmmaker, is also on trial.
ZAKARIA: Now for our “What in the World” segment. Here’s what caught my attention this week. It’s a Web site. And unless you read Farsi, you probably don’t know what it says. So, let me explain.
It’s the Web site of the former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami. And he declares the ongoing trials of some 100 Iranian opposition figures, politicians, journalists, to be show trials. It is the latest in an ever-escalating series of charges made by major leaders in Iran against the regime.
And I can safely say that Khatami’s charge is true, because my friend and colleague, Maziar Bahari, is on trial. He’s a Newsweek reporter and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. He’s appeared as a guest on this program.
He was arrested in Tehran on June 21st. In the six weeks since then, he has had no access to a lawyer, and he has not been able to see his family.
And over the weekend, Maziar “confessed,” saying Western media helped cause the chaos after Ahmadinejad’s disputed election.
It is a lie. Maziar obviously knows it’s a lie. And the Iranian government knows it’s a lie.
After all, it’s a lie that they — those in power in Iran — forced him to speak. And that is what a show trial is all about.
It is a phrase usually connected with Joseph Stalin, the ruthless Soviet dictator. In the late 1930s, Stalin tried 50-odd men in mass trials for crimes against the state.
In fact, the similarities between the Soviet trials of 70 years ago and the Iranian trials of today is striking. Large rooms filled with row upon row upon row of men. At the front, full rows of the accused, many looking weary, downtrodden. Many of those in the front, former key government officials who helped build the revolutionary regime, only now to see it put them on trial.
And when their time comes to take the stand, they confess, saying whatever the regime wants them to, hoping that it means they will be treated less harshly, hoping that one day they might be able to be free, hoping to see their families again.
In the Soviet case, those hopes were never realized.
The Iranian government still has time to change, or else it will be remembered in history solely for its horrific use of totalitarian tactics, an example of modern-day Stalinism.
It should release Bahari and all its other political prisoners immediately.