HAJJARIAN'S ALLEGED KILLERS GO ON TRIAL AMID CONTROVERSY.

TEHRAN 25TH Apr. (IPS) The first session of the hasty arranged trial at the Islamic Revolution Court of the men alleged to be involved in the assassination attempt against Mr. Sa'id Hajjarian, the vice Chairman of the Tehran City Council (TCC) and a close friend and adviser to President Mohammad Khatami started without the participation of the victim's family.

Mr. Hajjarian was shot at close distance on 12th March as he was entering the TCC and seriously wounded. Taken to hospital, he is still under treatment.

According to the pro-government official news agency IRNA, eight people, among them;

++ 20 years-old Sa'id Asgar, a student of chemical engineering at Islamic Azad (Free) University, said to be the one who shot Mr. Hajjarian;

++ Mohsen (Morteza) Majidi, 30, driver of the powerful motorcycle used by the assailant, a high school student and doing his military service who became a non-commissioned officer of the Revolutionary Guards operating a shop selling spare parts and repairing powerful motorcycles that are used only by security services and patrols;

++ Mohammad Ali Moqaddam, 22, accomplice, finished guidance school; implicated by other suspects as the one who provided the group with information as to the time of Mr. Hajjarian's arrival to his office at the TCC and the one who stopped the Publisher of the outspoken reformist daily Sobhe Emrouz by handing him a letter, thus providing the assailant the opportunity to shoot at Mr. Hajjarian;

++ Mehdi Rowqani, 23, an accomplice;

++ Mousa Jan-Nesari, 23, a staff member and a student at Tehran University;

++ Safar Maqsoudi, 28, with record of involvement in illicit dealings, murder, theft and armed robbery, the one who the revolver used in the failed assassination;

++ Alipour-Chalu'i, 24, a Kung Fu coach at a sports club used by the Guards, expelled from high school for misconduct and

++ Sa'id Gagonani, 19, a high school graduate.

Eyewitnesses at the trial told Iran Press service that Mr. Asgar confessed to shooting at Mr. Hajjarian as well as to two other cases of murders, saying he was obeying to religious order provided by a cleric.

Despite Mr. Asgar's confessions, sources, including Mr. Hajjarian's family and friends have expressed doubts, as his father, in a letter to the authorities, has indicated that his son was at home at the time of failed assassination.

Reformists immediately speculated that the aim of the conservatives for attempting at the life of Mr. Hajjarian, considered as the "architect" behind the victory of Mr. Khatami in the May 1997 presidential elections and the February parliamentary race was to create a situation giving them the possibility of proclaiming emergency state and shutting all institutions, including the Majles.

But the hard liners counter-charged by claiming that the assassination plot was the work of people and groups close to the president, naming Mr. Hakimikpour, a TCC member who took Mr. Hajjarian to hospital.

The trial started amid bitter controversy, as Mr. Hajjarian had asked the authorities to postpone the trial until he is fit to attend, but the Islamic Kjudiciary that is controlled directly by the leader ignored his plea.

Sources say one reason behind the leader-controlled Judiciary to ignore Mr. Hajjarian's demand is that the conservatives are keen to wrap the case while the political atmosphere is filled with tension created following the closure of 14 pro-reform publications, the arrest of three prominent journalists, the outcry orchestrated by the leader-controlled Television over the Berlin Conference and the confusion surrounding the inauguration of the next reformists-controlled Majles as a result of the leader-controlled Council of Guardians annulling election results in several districts, including Tehran, where all the 30 seats except one were swept by pro-Khatami candidates.

From the outset, the failed assassination attempt became a subject of controversy and couter-accusation between the reformist camp and the conservatives led by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

According to evidences brought by journalists, the murderers, most of them forming a gang, would operate for the Intelligence Department of the Revolutionary Guards.

That was the reason that from the outset, and like the case of the murder by high ranking officials from the Intelligence Ministry of five nationalist intellectual and politician dissident in November 1998, Mr. Khameneh'i accused "foreign hands and their local agents".

But since the Guards who, unexpectedly and surprisingly, had rounded up the killers refused to hand them over to the Intelligence Ministry, it became clear that they had called on the leader to save them from the same mess and shame and humiliation that afflicted the Intelligence Ministry after it confessed to the involvement of its senior members in the "chain murders".

That was done after Mr. Khameneh'i ordered the newspapers not to write anything about the Hajjarian case that do not come from official sources.

In several speeches afterward, including the last he made to the Basij, he accused the independent press of accusing the Guards "without having any proof or document".

That address served as a basis for the Judiciary to order the closure of all but a few reform seeking publications. ENDS HAJJARIAN TRIAL 25400