Iran: ayatollah calls for death penalty for "rioters"
Iran's electoral authorities insisted June 26 the disputed presidential vote was the cleanest ever, as the G8 urged Tehran to halt repression—but without questioning the poll results. "After 10 days of examination, we did not see any major irregularities," Guardians Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai told the IRNA news agency. "We have had no fraud in any presidential election and this one was the cleanest election we have had. I can say with certainty that there was no fraud in this election."
The Group of Eight leading powers at a meeting in Italy called on Iran to immediately put a halt to the repression but refrained from calling into question the electoral result. Despite calls from Italy and France for a firm condemnation, the G8 foreign ministers backed off from harsh criticism and instead said the crisis should be settled "soon" through peaceful means. "We want violence to stop immediately," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a news conference after releasing a carefully-worded declaration from the world powers.
G8 member Russia warned against isolating Iran with a toughly-worded condemnation, arguing that it could trigger a backlash from Tehran that would jeopardize cooperation with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
"We are concerned about the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election," the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia said in the statement. "We fully respect the sovereignty of Iran. At the same time we deplore post-election violence which led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights."
Death penalty for protesters?
In a nationally broadcast sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran, hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami called on the government to impose even tighter controls on the foreign media. "How can they be allowed to wander round the country with their satellite phones giving information that provokes people to take to the streets?" he asked.
Khatami suggested that any protester who used violence should face the death penalty. "Anyone who takes up arms against the people is a mohareb [against God] and Islam has prescribed the toughest punishment for such offenders," Khatami told worshipers at Tehran University. "I want the judiciary to...punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson. They should be punished ruthlessly and savagely." Under Iran's Islamic law, punishment for people convicted as "mohareb" is execution.
The official English-language Press TV said June 25 that 20 people have been killed in the protests, including eight members of the Basij militia. Other state media have reported that 17 civilians have been killed.
"Credibility of the Islamic Republic has been damaged"
Also June 26, defeated conservative candidate Mohsen Rezai charged that the events of the past fortnight had damaged the authority of the Islamic regime. "More important than the elections, people's lives and property and the credibility of the Islamic Republic have been damaged in recent weeks and we must act to stop that," said Rezai, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards.
Although the street protests have died down, Iran's rulers are still facing a major crisis, with cracks emerging within the regime itself. The video clip of the fatal shooting of young woman demonstrator Neda Agah-Soltan has come to symbolize the regime's iron-fisted response to the protests. Arash Hejazi, a doctor who tried to save her, told the BBC the shooter was identified by the crowd as a Basij militiaman. (Middle East Online, Reuters, June 26)
Tehran plays conspiranoia card
Iran's ambassador to Mexico, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, told CNN he believes Neda Agah-Soltan was killed by the CIA. "This death of Neda is very suspicious," Ghadiri said. "My question is, how is it that this Miss Neda is shot from behind, got shot in front of several cameras, and is shot in an area where no significant demonstration was behind held?" Answering his own quesiton, he answered: "Well, if the CIA wants to kill some people and attribute that to the government elements, then choosing women is an appropriate choice, because the death of a woman draws more sympathy."
In response, CIA spokesman George Little said, "Any suggestion that the CIA was responsible for the death of this young woman is wrong, absurd and offensive." (CNN, June 25)
Iran's Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli accused the CIA of funding the "rioters," telling the Fars News Agency: "Britain, America and the Zionist regime (Israel) were behind the recent unrest in Tehran. Many of the rioters were in contact with America, CIA and the MKO and are being fed by their financial resources." The Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) is an armed opposition group that has been backed by the CIA. (Reuters, June 24)
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