Iran Opposition leader Mousavi Is Ready for Martyrdom
New Delhi: In his first public comments since the recent protests, Mir-Hossein Mousavi calls for a restoration of civil liberties and said threats against his life would not deter him. Defying demands for his execution, Iran's leading opposition figure on Friday issued a scathing denunciation of the government's violent crackdown against his supporters, calling for a restoration of civil liberties as a way of ending what he described as a "serious crisis" that has destabilized the nation. Mir-Hossein Mousavi's statement, posted to reformist websites, were his first public comments since a violent weekend of protests coinciding with an important religious holiday. Mousavi's 43-year-old nephew, Ali Habibi-Mousavi, was shot to death on Sunday. Mousavi said threats against his life would not deter him. "I'm not afraid of being one of the postelection martyrs who lost their lives in their struggle for their rightful demands," he wrote in his first major public statement in weeks. "My blood is not redder than that of other martyrs." Mousavi ran for president in disputed June elections in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor, triggering months of on-and-off protests.
Authorities describe the unrest as a foreign-backed plot meant to weaken the Islamic Republic, which is under international pressure for its drive to master nuclear technology. Opposition news websites report that security forces have arrested at least 1,300 people in Tehran and other cities since the Dec. 19 death of dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri began a fresh wave of demonstrations. Plainclothes security officials and Basiji militiamen have stormed the homes and offices of dissident clerics and activists. Hard-line clerics loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have labeled the protesters and opposition leaders mohareb, or enemies of God, an Islamic offense punishable by death. "These people are flagrant examples of corruption on Earth, and we punished the likes of them in the early days of the revolution," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshipers at Friday prayers, possibly referring to the mass execution of the Islamic Republic's jailed opponents during the 1980s. "Security and intelligence bodies should accomplish their tasks to arrest norm-breakers quickly for trial," said Jannati, who heads the Guardian Council, the powerful committee of clerics and jurists that ratified Ahmadinejad's reelection last year. "We need revolutionary judges and not the indolent ones."
Opposition websites on Friday also published a photograph of a Chinese armored anti-riot vehicle equipped with high-powered water cannons that has reportedly arrived in Tehran for possible use against demonstrators.
The constant stream of threats has failed to silence an opposition that has become increasingly daring. Some took to the streets Thursday in wildcat demonstrations around the capital and were met with volleys of tear gas.
Shocked by the sharp escalation in rhetoric and tactics on both sides, some conservatives within the establishment have begun agitating for compromise. In response to Mousavi's letter, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai urged Khamenei to reach out to the opposition. Rezai noted that Mousavi desisted from describing Ahmadinejad's government as illegitimate.
"Mr. Mousavi's retreat from denying the government of Mr. Ahmadinejad and his constructive proposal to the parliament and judiciary . . . can be regarded as a beginning of a unity-fostering move from the frontline of the protesters," he said, according to the news website Tabnak. Rezai's comments suggest the depth of anxiety among some Islamic Republic stalwarts about the country's future. Mousavi's statement fell short of the radical demands being made by an increasingly vocal segment of the protest movement.
He reiterated long-standing reformist calls for a more transparent and accountable government, new election rules, the release of political prisoners, the lifting of media restrictions and a recognition of people's right to protest and form political parties. But he stood by the protesters, refusing to condemn any of their actions, as demanded by hard-liners. He predicted that the government's use of political violence and mass arrests would not pull Iran out of its political crisis. "Let's assume that you impose silence by arrests, acts of violence, threats and muzzling newspapers and news websites," he wrote. "What solution do you have for the change in people's view of the regime? How can you make up for the lack of legitimacy?"
DUBAI -- Iran's most prominent opposition leader launched a defiant broadside at the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday, striking back after two days of heavy criticism by supporters of the regime. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former presidential candidate who has become the opposition movement's de facto leader, criticized a harsh government crackdown on protesters Sunday, and said he was willing to die in the fight to allow the Iranian people to express their religious and civic rights. Mr. Mousavi, in his Internet posting Friday, said he "has no fear of becoming one of the martyrs" for the cause, and he challenged regime officials who have threatened to prosecute him and other leaders of the opposition. The statement comes after two days of outpourings by government supporters against the opposition and Mr. Mousavi personally. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of regime backers demonstrated, sometimes raucously, in solidarity with Mr. Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During some rallies, government supporters chanted against Mr. Mousavi and his opposition partner, Mahdi Karroubi, another unsuccessful candidate in the June 12 presidential elections, calling for Mr. Mousavi's death and the execution of protesters.
On Thursday, Iran's state prosecutor warned that opposition leaders could face charges if they didn't renounced recent protests. On Friday, Iran's deputy head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, called pro-opposition protesters enemies of God, or mohareb in Farsi, a crime punishable by death under Iranian law, according to the Associated Press. "Those who riot ... insult sanctities ... this is undoubtedly proof" of defying God, AP reported Mr. Raisi as saying, citing Iranian state radio. State media also said Wednesday that two top opposition leaders had fled Tehran, triggering speculation that Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi had buckled under pressure from that day's progovernment demonstrations. People close to both men quickly denied they had left the capital.
On Friday, Mr. Mousavi appeared eager to make clear he hadn't been cowed. "By ordering the execution, murder or imprisonment of Karroubi, Mousavi and those close to them, the problem won't be solved," Mr. Mousavi said in his statement posted on his Web site, Kaleme. Mr. Mousavi was Mr. Ahmadinejad's toughest challenger in the June polls, but election results showed he lost to the president in a landslide. That triggered accusations by Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi of vote-rigging, and set off violent protests in the streets of Tehran. Tehran officials have treaded carefully with Mr. Mousavi. His movements are closely circumscribed, and authorities have rounded up many of his top aides, sometimes on more than one occasion. But Tehran hasn't yet taken legal action against him, a move that could further inflame street protests.
He denied that he or other reformist leaders had called people to the street."God-seeking people thronged the streets to prove that extensive self-motivated social and civil networks, springing up before and after the election, do not wait for statements and declarations," he said.
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