on November 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Iran’s Mousavi hints at new opposition rally

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi appeared to urge his supporters Saturday to take part in rallies on November 4 marking the 30th anniversary of the student seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

If they gather in the streets Wednesday, there may be clashes with police and government backers, as happened at annual demonstrations to support the Palestinians on September 18.

In a statement posted on his www.kaleme.com website, Mousavi said he would press ahead with his efforts for political change in Iran following its disputed election in June, which he says was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Apart from sporadic incidents, the streets of Tehran have returned to normal since the poll sparked Iran’s worst street unrest since the Islamic revolution three decades ago.

Referring to the Iranian date of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in 1979, Mousavi said: “The 13th of Aban is a … rendezvous so we would remember anew that among us it is the people who are the leaders.”

He said: “Our ‘green path’ is a rational one and a bearer of good news since it shows that we will stand firm on our demands.” Green was the color of Mousavi’s election campaign.

“Sooner or later … the people’s opponents will be leaving the scene. But does it mean a devastated country will have to remain for the nation on that day?” he added.

Anti-Western rallies usually take place outside the old U.S. embassy to mark the day in 1979 when radical students scaled its walls and took 52 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Washington cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980.

Some reformist websites have called on people to gather outside the Russian embassy instead, in an apparent protest at Moscow’s swift recognition of Ahmadinejad’s election victory.

Iranian security officials have ordered the opposition not to hold demonstrations on that day.

“PEOPLE’S OPPONENTS”

The elite Revolutionary Guards and an allied Islamic militia quelled the huge opposition protests that erupted in the days after the June 12 vote and thousands of people were arrested.

Most of the detainees have since been released, but more than 100 senior reformers, activists, journalists and others have been put on trial, accused of fomenting street unrest. The opposition has denounced the court sessions as “show trials.”

Several of the accused have been jailed and three have been sentenced to death, according to Iranian media. Under Iranian law, the verdicts can be appealed.

The authorities have portrayed the demonstrations as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic Republic and reject charges of vote rigging.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top authority, said earlier this week that it was a crime to question the election, and hardliners have called for Mousavi’s prosecution.

A senior judiciary official said verdicts had been issued on more than 50 people over post-election unrest, the official IRNA news agency said. “The rioters and those responsible for creating insecurity should know well that they would have to pay a heavy price for that,” said the official, Ibrahim Raisi.

Ahmadinejad has consolidated his position in recent months, winning parliament’s backing for his government as well as for an economic reform plan. Mousavi and his allies remain defiant.

Reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami, who backed Mousavi in the election, also said he would not back down. “We will go on … critiquing the existing power but, of course, within the framework of a movement that accepts Islam, the Islamic establishment and the revolution,” he said.

The opposition says more than 70 people were killed in the post-election violence. Officials say the death toll was half that and members of the security forces were among the victims.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)