TEHRAN (AFP) – At least 10 people were killed in the latest unrest to shake Tehran, state television said on Sunday, as the opposition kept up its defiance of Iran’s Islamic rulers over the disputed election.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi fired off an unprecedented criticism of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after police clashed with thousands of protestors on Saturday in the capital, swept up in the worst unrest since the Islamic revolution 30 years ago.
State television said that 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in riots and clashes in Tehran on Saturday.
It also reported that several people were killed when rioters torched a mosque, but it later said there were no deaths from the incident.
Last week, state media reported that at least seven people had been killed and many more wounded in the post-election violence and protests which have shaken the country since last Saturday.
Mousavi, who is leading the massive wave of public opposition to the June 12 vote that returned hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, accused the country’s rulers of “cheating” and warned of a dangerous path ahead if the crackdown on demonstrators continued.
He unleashed his broadside against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s all-powerful supreme leader, after police firing tear gas and water cannon clashed with thousands of protestors who defied an ultimatum from Khamenei for an end to their street protests.
World leaders have voiced mounting alarm over the unrest, which has severely jolted the pillars of the Islamic regime and raised concerns over the future of the regional Shiite Muslim powerhouse.
Iran has fired back, accusing foreign governments of meddling.
“We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people,” said US President Barack Obama, who has appealed for dialogue with Tehran after three decades of severed ties.
“The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching.”
Mousavi, a former prime minister who was defeated by Ahmadinejad in the presidential election, lashed out at Khamenei in an unprecedented challenge to the man who has ruled over Iran for 20 years.
In his first public appearance since the vote, Khameini on Friday ruled out any election fraud and warned that opposition leaders would be responsible for “blood, violence and chaos” if there was no end to protests that have engulfed Tehran and other cities over the past week.
But the moderate Mousavi, 67, reiterated his demand for a new election after official results showed he had lost to the incumbent by a landslide.
“If this huge volume of cheating and changing the votes… which has hurt people’s trust, is presented as the very evidence of the lack of cheating then it will butcher the republican aspect of the system and the idea that Islam is incompatible with a republic will be proven,” Mousavi said.
He warned in a statement on the website of his newspaper Kalameh that if people were unable to defend their rights peacefully “there will be dangerous ways ahead.”
Khamenei, who last week ordered a probe into allegations of electoral fraud, had insisted in his Friday sermon on the legality of Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Thousands of demonstrators had braved tear gas and water cannon to assemble in Enghelab Square in the heart of the capital on Saturday, witnesses said.
The foreign media has been barred from covering such events as part of tight restrictions imposed since the unrest was unleashed last Saturday.
A suicide bomber also struck a key regime monument — the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in south Tehran — killing himself and wounding three people, two of them foreigners, state media reported.
“The robocops beat us up badly,” one protestor told AFP. “Men and women were beaten up… My whole body is bruised.”
Another witness said: “Lots of guards on motorbikes closed in on us and beat us brutally.
“As we were running away the Basiji (Islamic militiamen) were waiting in side alleys with batons, but people opened their doors to us trapped in alleys.”
Since the protests began, scores of prominent political activists, including reformist leaders, former government officials and journalists, have also been rounded up by the authorities.
In the latest arrests, Jila Bani Yaghoub and Bahman Ahmadi Amouie, who worked for a variety of reformist newspapers, were arrested on Saturday, said Issa Saharkhiz, himself a reformist journalist.
The head of Iran’s security council, Abbas Mohtaj, on Saturday delivered a stern warning to Mousavi, whose supporters have been turning out wearing scarves and headbands in green, his campaign color.
“Should you provoke and call for these illegal rallies you will be responsible for the consequences,” he said.
Iran’s electoral watchdog, the 12-member Guardians Council, said on Saturday it was ready to randomly recount up to 10 percent of the ballot boxes from the election, state television reported.
Karim Sadjadpour of US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the “previously sacred red lines” were being challenged in Iran — where 60 percent of the population were born after the 1979 revolution.
“It is unprecedented that people would begin to openly challenge Khamenei’s legitimacy as supreme leader, and indeed question the legitimacy of the institution of the supreme leader,” he said in an interview posted on the website of the US Council of Foreign relations.