Hardline Iran editor calls for Mousavi to face trial

A newspaper editor seen as close to Iran’s top authority said on Saturday defeated election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi and a former pro-reform president had committed “terrible crimes” which should be tried in court.

In a commentary published in his hardline Kayhan daily, editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari suggested Mousavi and his supporters in last month’s disputed election had acted on the instructions of the United States.

“An open court, in front of the people’s eyes, must deal with all the terrible crimes and clear betrayal committed by the main elements behind the recent unrest, including Mousavi and Khatami,” he wrote, referring to former President Mohammad Khatami, a leading reformist who backed Mousavi in the election.

Another hardline newspaper, Javan, said 100 members of Parliament had signed a letter to the judiciary calling for the leaders of “post-election riots” to face trial, pointing to Mousavi and fellow defeated moderate Mehdi Karoubi.

The June 12 poll stirred the most striking display of internal dissent in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution and strained ties with the West. At least 20 people died in post-election violence last month.

The authorities have portrayed mass pro-Mousavi protests, which erupted after official results showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected by a landslide, as the work of local subversives and foreign powers.

“All they did and said was in line with the instructions announced by American officials in the past,” Shariatmadari, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote.

Ahmadinejad, in a speech in Tehran to mark Mines and Industry Day on Saturday, said Western powers were whipping up controversy over the Iranian election to divert attention from their economic problems.

“The countries suffering from the financial crisis have tried hard to divert the world public opinion from this huge crisis, for instance they created the swine flue issue or they have tried to make something else from our election,” he said.

Security forces quelled the protests, but Mousavi and his allies, who say the election was rigged in favour of the anti-Western incumbent, have refused to back down.

Karoubi’s Etemad-e Melli website said on Saturday he had visited families of some of the many people detained after the election, including former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who was part of his campaign and was arrested on June 16.

“The recent detainees were not opponents of the system. They are members of the establishment who had some complaints against the result of the election,” Karoubi said.

“It is not correct to restrict the protesters instead of removing the doubts over the election irregularities.
Such actions will cause people’s beliefs and trust to be destroyed and this is very dangerous,” he said during the Friday visits.

A senior pro-reform cleric also urged the authorities not to violate people’s rights. He said many Iranians remained unconvinced about Ahmadinejad’s re-election because of voting “ambiguities” and the government could face problems.

“I remind you that no instruction or command can be a permission or excuse to violate people’s rights and this could be a great sin,” Grand Ayatollah Yusof Saanei said on Friday.

The authorities reject opposition charges of vote rigging and say the vote was Iran’s “healthiest” since the revolution. Government spokesperson Gholamhossein Elham said the next government enjoyed “huge support”.

“A small group are moving in a wrong path which is not the path of the revolution. The real winner of the election is 40-million voters,” he said, adding that if activists or journalists committed crimes they should be punished.

Karoubi, who like Mousavi has called for the election to be annulled, vowed not to back down. “I don’t know what will happen in the end. But I have prepared myself for everything. I will stand till the end to defend people’s rights,” he said.

Iran’s police chief, Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, on Wednesday put the total number of detainees in connection with the unrest at 1 032 and said most had been freed. The rest had been “referred to the public and revolutionary courts”, he said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said on Tuesday reports from within Iran indicated that as many as 2 000 people, including opposition leaders, professors, journalists, students and protesters may be in detention. - Reuters

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