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Originally published March 3, 2010 at 3:34 AM | Page modified March 3, 2010 at 9:57 AM

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Iran court upholds death for opposition activist

An Iranian appeals court has upheld the death sentence for a student who took part in an anti-government rally in December that left eight people dead, an opposition Web site reported.

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran —

An Iranian appeals court has upheld the death sentence for a student who took part in an anti-government rally in December that left eight people dead, an opposition Web site reported.

The kaleme site reported late Tuesday that 20-year-old Mohammad Amin Valian had testified during his trial that he threw stones at security forces and plainclothes pro-government militiamen as they "savagely" beat demonstrators during the Dec. 28 rally in Tehran.

Valian was found guilty of Moharebeh - a religious offense that translates as defiance of God, a crime punishable by death under Iranian law.

Iran has executed two people from a total of 11 sentenced to death so far - including Valian - for taking part in opposition protests that have challenged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's proclaimed election victory.

The opposition contends Ahmadinejad won by massive vote fraud and that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was the rightful winner.

A massive wave of protests that peaked during the summer triggered a bloody government crackdown that the opposition says killed more than 80 demonstrators and left hundreds of rights activists, journalists and pro-reform politicians jailed.

Iran's hardline judiciary has put more than 100 opposition figures and supporters on a mass trial that started in August. Along with those sentenced to death, more than 80 have been handed prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years.

The government, which puts the number of confirmed deaths at 30, has accused opposition leaders of being "stooges of the West" and seeking to topple the ruling system through street protests.

Most of those detained have been charged with Moharebeh and seeking to topple the ruling system through rallies hard-liners describe as a Western-backed "Velvet Revolution," after the movement that toppled communism in what was Czechoslovakia.

Valian was an electoral campaigner for Mousavi in Damghan, a city 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of the capital Tehran. He is also a member of reformist student group called the Office for Fostering Unity.

Kaleme said the evidence used to convict Valian was a photograph showing him throwing stones during the rally. "A death verdict on the basis of a photo has astonished and shocked both his family and relatives," it said.

Valian testified he threw stones on three occasions but that they didn't hit anybody, the Web site added.

(This version CORRECTS the two already executed were from among 11 opposition activists sentenced to death)

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