U.S. dismisses "clumsy" Iran threat of rights trials

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 05, 2011 4:08 PM
U.S. dismisses "clumsy" Iran threat of rights trials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday dismissed an Iranian threat to try U.S. officials in absentia on human rights charges as a clumsy attempt to deflect international attention from Tehran's own rights record.

Iranian lawmaker Esmail Kosari told Iranian newspapers on Monday that some 26 U.S. officials would be tried in absentia and their files passed on to international tribunals.

He did not identify the officials, but it appeared likely they would include the same people listed on a parliamentary bill to be subjected to Iranian sanctions.

They include former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and military commanders at U.S. detention centers Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington had seen the reports but saw them as nothing more than a diversion.

"I would call it a pretty clumsy tit-for-tat in response to the multiple human rights sanctions that the international community has leveled in the direction of Iran," Nuland told a news briefing.

The Iranian sanctions motion, which has yet to be approved by the full parliament, came after the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed a special investigator to look into human rights abuses in Iran.

Washington, which has led international pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, has also stepped up its accusations of human rights violations and last year began blacklisting senior Iranian officials it says were responsible for abuses during the crackdown of post-elections protests.

(editing by Cynthia Osterman)