Reformists resist Iranian government pressure

Son of revolutionary icon urges parliament to dismiss Ahmadinejad.

worried Ahmadinejad 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
worried Ahmadinejad 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The son of an Iranian revolutionary icon urged parliament to dismiss President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the country's conservative political establishment upped pressure Sunday on the reformists. 47-year-old Ali Reza Beheshti, a close friend of reformist party leader Mir Hussein Mousavi and son of one of the main leaders of the 1979 Islamic revolution, also called on the parliament to reverse the election results, saying that "people expect their representatives to represent them and not to defend authorities by any means." "I wish the lawmakers would respect the demands of the majority of their constituents" and submit a bill disqualifying the president, Beheshti was quoted as saying on the pro-Mousavi Web site, Norooznews. Beheshti, who ran Mousavi's now-banned Kalemeh newspaper, is the younger son of Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, Iran's top judge who was killed in a bombing in 1981. Another defeated candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, also said he would continue his fight even though "we may face difficulties on the way," he was quoted as saying Sunday on his Web site. The comment came in a speech to his supporters late Saturday in which he also said that many lawmakers, "including conservatives, do not support the winner of the election." Iran's leadership has been grappling with how to handle fallout from the elections, which critics maintain President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud. On Sunday, the conservative Kayhan newspaper ran its second consecutive editorial targeting Mousavi and his backers, dubbing them as dangerous in comments highlighting the government's predicament. "How should the Islamic Republic treat such groups? They would be a dangerous opposition if they were to win, and set the streets on fire if they lose," said Sunday's editorial. "The meaning of such behaviors is that they do not accept the system," or the Islamic republic. A day earlier, the paper ran another editorial accused Mousavi of being an American agent and suggested he be tried for treason, raising the possibility that that Mousavi could be arrested and charged like many other pro-reform figures. The weeks of unrest that immediately followed the vote have largely died down amid a crackdown by authorities. But reformists have pressed their cause, demanding recounts, appealing to the all-powerful Guardian Council and to the parliament. The detention of protesters and reports of street violence have further tarnished the image of a government already criticized by many Western nations for a litany of issues - ranging from its controversial nuclear program to its foreign policy in the region. The fallout from the election has led to wide rifts between Iran's clergy, potentially harming supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's standing in the country as pro-Mousavi dissent mounts among the clerics. A group of clerics from Qom, a city known as a center of scholarship for Shiite Islam south of Tehran, issued a statement earlier last week in support of Mousavi. The statement urged religious leaders to back Mousavi supporters, and urged religious leaders to "oppose oppressors and aid oppressed" people. It said that the reputations of the government and the religious establishment are simultaneously jeopardized because, in Iran, "if people find the system opposed to them, they will consider clerics to be against them, too." Iranian officials, however, have resisted calls for a new vote, dismissing allegations of fraud and calling the elections "pure" and "healthy" following the supreme leader's declaration that the results would stand. They have also said Mousavi's supporters were operating at the behest of foreign powers - namely Britain and the United States. Police say more than a thousand people have been detained in total and 20 "rioters" killed during the violence. Eight members of the paramilitary Basij militia tasked with putting down the protests have also been killed. Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam said Sunday that about two-thirds of those arrested during post-election violence have been released, and the judiciary is investigating those still in custody, according to state news agency IRNA. Officials had detained nine Iranians working at the British Embassy in Tehran, accusing them of fomenting unrest. All but one have been released, according to Abdolsamad Khorramshi, the lawyer for the employee still in custody. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, however, told reporters in London that two employees were still in custody, and one was to be released Sunday. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear. Khorramshi said that the ninth employee, who he identified as Hossein Rassam, a political analyst at the embassy, was charged with harming Iran's national security. The crackdown has spread to top opposition leaders, as well, with about a dozen detained since the protests began, said lawyer Saleh Nikbakht, who represents a number of them. The semiofficial news agency Fars reported last week that prominent reformer, former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, had "confessed that he has provoked people and students to anarchy and riots and velvet revolution." Fars did not give further details about what punishment Abtahi, who served in Khatami's government, could face. Their families have rejected the charges as baseless saying confessions obtained under pressure were worthless. Some human rights groups have raised concerns that people detained in the post-election turmoil could be forced into making bogus confessions under torture or other duress.