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Mousavi reportedly will launch political party in Iran

Opposition candidate's supporters describe plans in a reformist newspaper. Iranian officials release a jailed European journalist and a lawyer says a British Embassy worker will be freed soon.

July 06, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — The top figure of Iran's nascent political reform movement, opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, will launch a political party to pursue his goals, a reformist newspaper reported Sunday.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, released a jailed European journalist and the lawyer of an imprisoned employee of the British Embassy in Tehran said he was confident that his client's case would be resolved.

Beleaguered President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated calls for a live "debate" with President Obama late Saturday in a possible sign Iran was seeking to ease diplomatic strains over his disputed reelection and its violent aftermath.

Iran continues a wide-ranging crackdown on opposition figures and reformists after the June 12 election, on Sunday blocking the website of a small reformist clerical bloc in the holy city of Qom.

The group sharply criticized the recent vote and subsequent recount effort by the Guardian Council, whose members are appointed directly and indirectly by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who supports Ahmadinejad.

"A council, whose jurist and jurisprudent members had disproved their impartiality months ahead of the election, is not competent to rule on the cleanness and accuracy of the vote," said the proclamation by the Qom Assembly of Instructors and Researchers.

The group, somewhat prominent during the heyday of former President Mohammad Khatami, is now far less influential than the similarly named but far more important Qom Seminary Teachers Society which is pro-Khamenei and controls more than 80% of the holy city's 50 or so seminaries.

The spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday announced the release of freelance journalist Iason Athanasiadis, a citizen of Britain and Greece, who was arrested as he tried to leave the country through Tehran's international airport last month, state television reported.

The lawyer for British Embassy employee Hossein Rassam denied reports that his client had been formally charged, saying he was optimistic the Iranian national would be released in the coming days.

Rassam, 44, is the top political analyst at Britain's mission in Iran, where he headed a staff of eight or nine who were all arrested on suspicion of promoting or taking part in recent clashes between supporters of Mousavi and government security forces.

"I think his situation will be fixed soon," said Rassam's lawyer, Abdul-Samad Khorramshahi, who also represented jailed journalist Roxana Saberi. "I think that in the next few days I will get good news."

Khorramshahi said he visited the Revolutionary Court to discuss Rassam's case. Authorities have not yet formally lodged a complaint against him, but could decide to do so in a week.

The arrest of Rassam and his colleagues heightened the confrontation between Iran and the West over the election and its aftermath, in which images of baton-wielding plainclothes militiamen beating demonstrators were broadcast around the world.

Tehran, which has accused London of planning and fomenting the unrest, has sought to depict Iran's greatest domestic political challenge in 30 years as a foreign plot.

Even as Mousavi's supporters described plans for a political party in the daily newspaper Etemad-e-Melli, a campaign against the movement continued. An editorial to appear in today's editions of Sobh Sadegh, a newspaper close to the Revolutionary Guard, argues that the Guardian Council should bar "liars and rabble-rousers who were running for president" from taking part in electoral politics.

Several well-known Iranian actors have been banned from state television because of their support for Mousavi, according to the Khabar Online news website.

Authorities say that many of those swept up in the postelection unrest have been released from prison. The pro-government Basiji militia said it had released all but 100 of the 1,000 people it had arrested.

But some independent observers put the number of those detained much higher.

--

daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.

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