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The imprisonment of the frail reformer Saeed Hajarian exposes the callousness of Iran's leaders – and their lack of logic
You know things are bad in Iran when the hard-headed schemer Hashemi Rafsanjani is moved to bemoan the plight of the country's political detainees. The mass round-up and incarceration of opposition figures that followed last month's election debacle was denounced by the old "pragmatist" and arch pillar of the Islamic revolution at his much-awaited Tehran university Friday
Long hailed as the intellectual mastermind of the reformist movement, he is today physically frail thanks to a failed assassination attempt nine years ago ordered, in all probability, by the same hardline zealots who plotted the recent election buffoonery.
Hajarian is confined to a wheelchair and able to speak only with great difficulty, having suffered severe spinal cord damage after being shot in the face by a fundamentalist who, though later convicted, hardly served any jail time. He survives only with the help of daily medication, intensive physiotherapy and regular consultations with a neurosurgeon. He cuts as unthreatening a figure as any government is likely to encounter. But that hasn't stopped Iran's intelligence ministry from locking him up in Evin's Section 209 – reserved for the most potent political suspects – and subjecting him to regular interrogations.
Hajarian's captors fear his brain. They are trying to force him to sign a confession owning up to plotting a "colourful" or velvet revolution that would have seen the Islamic republic toppled and replaced by a pro-western puppet government, the political bogeyman that keeps Khamenei and his acolytes awake at night. In return, he would be allowed to leave prison – thereby handing the regime a propaganda coup and sparing it the increasing embarrassment of imprisoning a man whom it is already responsible for reducing to a shell.
But that doesn't alter the fact that the master strategist of the reformist movement is on record as declaring the notion of an Iranian velvet revolution as bunkum. So if news emerges any time soon of him admitting to planning one, you can rest assured that it was dragged out of him. Or more likely, that his captors have simply made it up.