Iran's Clerics Still Split Over June 12 Election

August 22, 2009|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,Tribune Newspapers

BEIRUT, Lebanon - - A high-ranking conservative cleric called for the arrest of Iran's opposition leaders Friday while a counterpart demanded the release of political prisoners as the nation's political and religious establishment showed no signs of reconciliation following the disputed June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In addition, many lawmakers and clergy from Ahmadinejad's own conservative political camp fumed over his proposed Cabinet, including his decision to nominate three female ministers. And an Argentine prosecutor confirmed that the president's proposed defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, is wanted by Interpol on terrorism charges.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful, ultraconservative Guardian Council, said the "leaders" behind recent weeks of unrest should be put on trial, the latest in a series of calls by hard-liners to arrest opposition figures such as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have challenged Ahmadinejad's presidency.

"During the recent riots, the entire nation was oppressed because the nation's Basiji and Hezbollah children's blood was spilled," he said, reiterating still unproven claims that some armed militiamen who attacked and beat demonstrators during recent protests also died in the unrest. "Why haven't the leaders of riots and those whom everyone knows touched off the plots been arrested?"

Ahmadinejad and hard-line allies in the Revolutionary Guard and clergy reportedly have been pushing for the arrest of former Prime Minister Mousavi, former Parliament Speaker Karroubi and other reformist leaders.

But reformists close to the security forces have warned that such a move would cross a "red line" that would trigger dire consequences.

For now, the calls to arrest Mousavi and Karroubi appear to be attempts to silence them and their supporters, who continue to speak out.

Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, prayer leader in the holy city of Qom, warned the city's hard-line seminary students and clergy to stop a campaign against an outspoken reformist cleric and called for freedom of "innocent" prisoners.

"Stop your obstinacy, willfulness and criminalization [of their critics]," he told worshipers. "Such behaviors cannot help you preserve the system. You have to practice leniency, justice and compassion to preserve it."

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