By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
TEHRAN, June 22 -- The Iranian parliament's judiciary committee raised the possibility Monday of legal action against opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, while government forces violently dispersed a crowd protesting alleged fraud in the June 12 presidential election.
After state news media took aim at Mousavi on Sunday, accusing him of supporting an illegal mass movement, Ali Shahrokhi, head of the parliamentary judiciary committee, suggested that the former prime minister was criminally liable for the recent unrest.
"Mousavi's statements inflame public opinion and are thus criminal acts," Shahrokhi told the semiofficial Fars News Agency. "The necessary circumstances for legal action against Mousavi are there."
Mousavi's repeated calls to protesters to continue their demonstrations are intended to undermine Iran's political system, Shahrokhi said.
"Unfortunately, Mousavi is using illegal marches and demonstrations and statements to exert pressure and bully the system," he said, adding, "If the system was going to give way to bullying, it would have done so with U.S. and imperialist pressure."
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps warned Monday that it would crush further demonstrations over the disputed election.
In a statement quoted by the semiofficial Mehr News Agency, the military organization said it strongly condemned the "illegal path" taken by "deceived elements" and demanded an end to "rioting and vandalism."
If unrest continues, the statement said, protesters "should expect a decisive and revolutionary confrontation from the children of the Iranian nation in the Guard, the Basij militia and other police and security forces to end the mutiny and riots."
Hours after the statement was released, more than 1,000 people turned out for a demonstration in Tehran's central Haft-e Tir Square. They were met by several hundred members of the Revolutionary Guard, who broke up the crowd with tear gas and gunshots, assisted by members of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force under the Guard's authority, eyewitnesses said.
Ambulances could be heard as security officials entered surrounding properties looking for demonstrators and people with cameras.
On Friday, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said protest organizers would be responsible for the "violence and bloodshed" that might follow if demonstrations were not stopped.
Tehran's police chief, Gen. Azizollah Rajabali, issued a statement Monday saying there would be no surrender to "hooligans and rioters" and calling the elections "a great test" for the police.
"The breakup of illegal demonstrations has left the police with numerous physical and mental injuries," he said.
Fars News also reported the arrest of members of a foreign-based opposition group who had been accused of shooting people, including police.
"This group fired blindly at the crowds of people and law enforcement personnel in the streets," Fars reported, saying that those arrested belonged to the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Islamist Marxist group that the United States has labeled a terrorist organization. The group, which sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, has little support among most Iranians.
Many eyewitnesses, however, have reported seeing gunmen they said were members of the Basij shooting at people, mainly from rooftops.
Supporters of Mousavi, 67, have called for a national strike Tuesday and urged Iranians to wear black and carry black candles with green ribbons -- green being the signature color of Mousavi's campaign -- to commemorate those killed during demonstrations Saturday.
On Monday, Iranian state television began advising citizens not to go out on the streets after 8 p.m., warning people to stay home "for their own safety."
Mousavi supporters also urged people to drive with their headlights on during the afternoon rush hour Monday.