Wed, Feb 16, 2011 - Page 6 News List

FALLOUT FROM NORTH AFRICA: Iran wants death for opposition

PROTEST:More than 220 lawmakers said Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami should be held responsible for a mass rally

AP, AFP and Reuters, TEHRAN and PARIS

Hardline Iranian lawmakers yesterday called for the country’s opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death, a day after clashes between tens of thousands of opposition protesters and security forces left one person dead and dozens injured.

The official IRNA news agency quoted acting police commander General Ahmad Reza Radan as saying dozens of people, including nine members of the security forces, also were wounded in the protests. Radan says one of the injured was in critical condition.

He also said several people were arrested, but did not say how many.

Riot police fired tear gas and paintballs at demonstrators, witnesses and Web sites said.

Radan blamed the violence on the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which is also known as PMOI or MEK, although he provided no proof to back up his claim.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran angrily denied allegations that its members were responsible for shooting dead a protestor during the Tehran demonstrations.

“These lying allegations which do not fool anyone were fabricated by the regime,” the council said in a statement released in French.

“Everyone knows that it is those in power who crushed the demonstrators, firing live rounds at them and tear gas,” said the council, which includes the outlawed PMOI.

The council said the PMOI was being blamed in order to justify “more executions of relatives” of its members. It said two members were executed for taking part in major anti-government protests in 2009.

At an open session of parliament, pro-government legislators chanted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Kahatami,” referring to opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

More than 220 lawmakers said in a statement that the trio should be held responsible for the unrest.

“We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders, the statement said.

Hardliners have long sought to put high-ranking opposition figures on trial, but the calls for the death penalty signaled an escalation in their demands.

“Those who created public disorder on Monday will be confronted firmly and immediately,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused opposition leaders of being part of a Western plot to overthrow the Islamic system. The claim has been denied by Mousavi and Karroubi.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani also accused the US and its allies of providing support to the opposition.

“The main aim of Americans was to simulate the recent events in the Middle East in Iran to divert attentions from those countries,” Larijani said, state radio reported.

Life was back to normal in Tehran streets and other cities yesterday, but wary of a repeat of the protests in 2009, hardline rulers are expected to step up pressure on the opposition to prevent a new flare-up.

State television described protesters as “Hypocrites, monarchists, thugs and seditionists.”

Radan was also quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying: “We have information ... that America, Britain and Israel guided the opposition leaders who called for the rally.”

Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia against secular, Western-allied rulers an “Islamic awakening,” akin to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed shah in Iran.

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