TEHRAN — Twenty people accused of rioting in the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election as president last month will be put on trial, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
The move came as opposition leaders vowed to continue defying the authorities and pay their respects at the graves of slain protesters.
IRNA said that 20 suspected rioters would face trial from Saturday, following the release of scores of protesters rounded up after massive public demonstrations over Ahmadinejad's June 12 victory.
They face charges including bombings, carrying weapons, attacking Basij militiamen and security forces and having contacts with exiled opposition group the People's Mujahedeen.
"They are also charged with attacking military units and universities, sending pictures to enemy media, organising thugs and rioters, vandalising public and state property including destroying banks and houses," IRNA said.
However, Iran prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi also announced that a "considerable" number of protesters would be freed by Friday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday urged Iran to release prisoners held after the protests.
"We believe that it is imperative for the authorities to release political prisoners," she told a Washington news conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
On Tuesday, 140 protesters were freed, while about 200 remain behind bars, including 50 suspected of masterminding riots, according to one MP who has visited detainees.
Iran's police chief, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, was quoted by the Mehr news agency on Wednesday as saying some officers "went to extremes in these incidents and they inflicted damage on people while chasing the rioters."
"Nothing should make our forces break the law," he added.
The prisoner releases are being seen as gestures to the opposition which has branded Ahmadinejad's landslide election win a fraud.
However, the opposition again expressed defiance over a ban on a planned mourning ceremony for slain protesters scheduled for Thursday at Tehran's Grand Mosalla, a venue used regularly for religious functions.
It was unclear whether the Mosalla ceremony would go ahead.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi also vowed to visit the graves of slain protesters on Thursday, according to the website of Karroubi's political party.
The two will visit the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery south of Tehran at 4:00 pm (1130 GMT), the Etemad Melli website said.
"The offices of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi announce that the two will go to the graves of those dead in the recent incidents along with their families and pay their respects," it said.
Media reports said the mother of protester Neda Agha-Soltan who was killed on June 20 will also visit the cemetery.
Neda became a symbol of protests against Ahmadinejad's victory after a graphic Internet video showing her final moments flashed around the world.
The defiance by Karroubi and Mousavi comes despite Ahmadinejad telling judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi to free protesters by August 7, anniversary of the birth of revered Shiite Imam Mahdi.
Ahmadinejad has come under fire from his own hardline supporters who warned him to obey supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or face the consequences.
The all-powerful Khamenei -- whose regime is battling to contain the worst crisis in the Islamic republic's 30-year existence -- also this week ordered the closure of a jail that was "not up to required standards."
Top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri lashed out at the regime over the deaths of protesters in custody, after media reports that four had died.
"Those who are behind bars are being forced to confess under torture and every day a body is being delivered to their family," Montazeri, once tipped to succeed revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said on his website.
Ahmadinejad's standing has been weakened among hardliners following his choice of a controversial aide as his first deputy and his tardiness in terminating the appointment despite Khamenei's orders.
He also sacked Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, reportedly after a quarrel over the delay in dismissing Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as first vice president.
Mashaie, who sparked controversy last year for saying Iran was a friend of the Israeli people, stood down but was then appointed Ahmadinejad's chief of staff.
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