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Iranian newspaper says opposition figure should stand trial

The state-owned paper says Mir-Hossein Mousavi is a foreign agent on 'a mission directed from abroad.' Meanwhile, a military commander says Iran may take over the British Embassy residence.

July 05, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — A right-wing newspaper close to Iran's supreme leader on Saturday accused the country's main opposition figure of being a dupe for Iran's foreign enemies and said he should face trial.

But Mir-Hossein Mousavi, defeated presidential candidate and leader of a nascent reform movement, remained unbowed. The soft-spoken but defiant former prime minister responded by releasing his most detailed account yet of what he maintains was vote-rigging and irregularities in last month's reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including an allegation that only the incumbent's allies were allowed to witness vote-counting on election day.

"None of the [opposition] candidates' representatives were allowed to go in," states the three-part report, posted on his website, ghalamnews.ir.

In a sign of potential escalation of Iran's confrontation with the West, an Iranian military official said the "ground has been set" for a takeover of the British Embassy residence in north Tehran. Iranian officials have accused Britain of stirring up the large-scale public protests that roiled Tehran for several weeks after the June 12 election.

The crackdown continued on opposition supporters accused of taking part in recent protests. The website of state-owned Press TV reported that 35 people were arrested. In Tehran, police have begun summoning residents to warn that they would be arrested if they did not stop rooftop protest chants that have become a nightly ritual of defiance throughout the capital and other cities.

The moves are the latest steps by authorities to silence critics and paint the political discord as the work of foreign agents and criminals.

They also are part of an official attempt to blame the opposition for violence that most witnesses and independent observers say was provoked by security forces and militias loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an Ahmadinejad ally.

The state-owned newspaper Kayhan -- long considered a mouthpiece of Khamenei, Iran's highest political and religious authority -- on Saturday described "undeniable facts and documented evidence" that Mousavi was a foreign agent on "a mission directed from abroad."

Hossein Shariatmadari, a hard-liner loyal to Khamenei and a staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, penned the piece, which represents a further effort to stigmatize a movement that was built on Mousavi's political campaign and fraud allegations, which drew hundreds of thousands into the streets.

"On the basis of available facts and documents, that corrupt movement has been implementing a foreign mission in order to encourage unlawful activities, kill innocent people, create a rebellion, plunder public property and weaken the power of the Islamic system," Shariatmadari wrote.

He accused Mousavi and his ally, former President Mohammad Khatami, of serving as a "fifth column" for the West and of committing numerous crimes, including "the murder of innocent individuals, inciting riots and rebellions, hiring some thugs and ruffians to attack the lives, property and honor of the people."

He demanded that Mousavi and Khatami "be tried in an open court" for their "frightful crimes and overt acts of treason."

Mousavi and Khatami had delivered strong statements Wednesday describing Ahmadinejad's government as "illegitimate."

On Saturday, Mousavi's lengthy report on the election irregularities contained no smoking gun but was the most detailed account so far offered by the opposition leaders of the methods they allege Ahmadinejad and his allies used to tilt the vote.

They include allegations of misuse of official power, mobilization of government employees, cash payouts to militiamen and improper use of radio and television as well as accusations that millions of extra ballots without serial numbers were printed at the last moment while some pro-Mousavi districts ran out of ballots on election day. Mousavi alleges that government officials violated their own rules by sending ballot boxes directly to be counted without campaign observers present.

Mousavi also alleges that the Interior Ministry, which organized the election, is controlled by an Ahmadinejad ally who purged longtime employees and hired the president's loyalists. He charges that the Guardian Council, which oversaw the vote and a limited recount, was dominated by Ahmadinejad supporters

Meanwhile, as authorities continued to detain two Iranian employees of the British mission in Tehran, a military commander said preparations had been made to seize the leafy 50-acre British Embassy residence in the north Tehran district of Qolhak. The property has been owned by London since the 19th century, though some Iranian hardliners insist that the deed is a forgery.

A powerful cleric who is among Mousavi's top backers emerged from weeks of silence to acknowledge widespread dissatisfaction with the vote and its aftermath, though he denied that the election had created a deep rift within the establishment. The statement appeared to set up the cleric as a potential mediator in the dispute.

"The incidents which followed the election and the problems which were created for some individuals have distressed people," Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Council, said during a meeting with families of those imprisoned in a crackdown on dissent.

"I do not think that any vigilant conscience could be satisfied with the current situation," he said, according to the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency.

--

daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.

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