Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran's Mousavi defies crackdown!

Mir Hossein Mousavi speaking at a rally in Tehran on 15/6/09
Mir Hossein Mousavi has not been seen in public for days

Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged "rigged" elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.

In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not "create tension."

He complained of "complete" restrictions on his access to people and a crackdown on his media group.

A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

"I won't refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people... because of personal interests and the fear of threats," Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.

Jon Leyne
Jon Leyne
BBC News

There are signs the government is beginning to regain control. Wednesday appears to have had the least protests of any day since the result was announced.

But any idea that the opposition is about to go gently is probably an illusion.

This is an argument within Iran about the future of the country. The two sides have deeply differing views on how Iran should be run, and its place in the world. And neither is about to give ground.

Those who violated the election process "stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people's blood on the ground", Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.

Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".

He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.

"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.

"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.

Opposition leaders had called for a day of mourning on Thursday, but some reports say it has been cancelled.

Separately, nearly two thirds of MPs appear to have stayed away from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's poll victory party.

All 290 MPs were invited to attend the party, Iran's press reports, but only 105 turned up. An earlier BBC report wrongly reported that 105 did not attend.

One of those who reportedly failed to turn up was Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a high-profile figure who shares some of Mr Ahmadinejad's hardline views but has been critical of some aspects of the government's handling of the protests.

President Ahmadinejad on Thursday criticised US President Barack Obama for his condemnation earlier this week of the violence in Iran.

"Our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously [former US President George W] Bush used to say," he was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying.

12 June Presidential election saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 63% of vote
Main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for result to be annulled on grounds of electoral fraud
Street protests saw at least 17 people killed and foreign media restricted

The Guardian Council, which supervises elections, has already said it will not re-run the election.

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated on Wednesday that he would "not yield" over the election result.

About 50 MPs in the Iranian parliament are reformist and would not have been expected to attend Mr Ahmadinejad's victory party.

But the high number of MPs who stayed away is another indication that the disputed election has split the nation, says the BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Tehran.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Mousavi's website said 70 university professors were arrested immediately after meeting with him.

Hundreds of opposition protesters and activists are believed to have been taken into custody and at least 17 people have died in the unrest since the election.

Ahmadinejad: US must not interfere

Wednesday's street protest was smaller than on previous days as the increasingly heavy security presence and government decrees to stop the demonstrations took effect.

But there were reports of riot police firing tear gas, shooting in the air and beating with batons demonstrators who defied the ban in central Tehran.

Severe reporting restrictions imposed on foreign media in Iran mean the BBC cannot verify the reports.

The Washington Times on Thursday said one of its freelance reporters, Jason Fowden, who has British and Greek nationality, was arrested at the airport as he tried to leave the country at the end of last week.

British officials said they were working with the Greek foreign ministry on the case.




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