TEHRAN, (Reuters) – 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 the 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.
A senior pro-reform cleric urged the authorities on Saturday 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 in a statement posted on his website on Friday.
The authorities reject opposition charges of vote rigging and say the vote was Iran’s “healthiest” since the revolution. They blame Mousavi, a moderate former prime minister, for the bloodshed after the election. Mousavi rejects the charge.
Mousavi and Karoubi denounced the result again on Wednesday and said Ahmadinejad’s next cabinet would be illegitimate.
“This means that they and many of the people have not yet been convinced over the ambiguities in the election … and it is possible that (the government) faces legal and civil problems,” pro-reform cleric Saanei 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 across the country.