TEHRAN (AFP) – A hardline Iranian cleric called on Monday for opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi to be lashed over his controversial claims that some election protesters were raped or tortured in custody.
The Iranian authorities have also banned the defeated presidential candidate’s reformist newspaper after it printed the allegations of prison abuse, his aides said.
Karroubi has stoked the ire of the authorities with his charges that women and young boys detained in custody after the massive protests over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June had been raped.
“In religious teachings if someone accuses another of sexual crime and he is unable to prove it, then he should receive 80 lashes,” hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami was quoted as saying by the Kayhan newspaper.
“Now Mr Karroubi has accused the regime and his allegations were rejected by two branches of the regime,” said Khatami, who is a regular leader of Friday prayers in Tehran.
Karroubi’s son Hossein said on his father’s party website that a prosecution official had ordered a “temporary ban” on the publication of his newspaper Etemad Melli (National Confidence) on Sunday.
He said the action was launched because his father had printed “responses to insults against him” over the rape claims which the hardliners charge played into the hands of Iran’s foreign critics.
Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi told the Mehr news agency that the paper was not banned but did not hit the newsstands because of “technical problems.”
“The reason for the paper not being published is due to problems at the printing house and the paper was not banned,” Mortazavi said.
The managing director of Etemad Melli, Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, confirmed that the judiciary had ordered the newspaper suspended but said it would be published on Tuesday.
“The representative from the prosecution office told us that Monday’s issue could not be printed… and thus we did not publish it,” Haghshenas told the official IRNA news agency.
Karroubi, a former parliament speaker who came a distant fourth in the election and is now a leading figure in the opposition, vowed on Sunday to seek the truth over the prison abuse allegations.
“But I say again that this behaviour and intimidation will not silence me and I will raise the issues I deem necessary. I will only shut up when all the dimensions of these incidents have been examined and the people are told the truth.”
Another newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz (Green Word), which belongs to Ahmadinejad’s main defeated rival Mir Hossein Mousavi, was shut down by the authorities in the wake of the disputed election.
About 4,000 opposition supporters were initially arrested over the unrest that swept Tehran and other cities after the election. Most have since been released, but around 200 remain behind bars. Around 140 have also been put on trial.
The authorities say about 30 people were killed in post-election violence while the opposition has said 69 people died.