Iran Vows To Make Example of Arrestees

After a hotly contested election pitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, the government declared Ahmadinejad the winner on June 13. Mousavi's supporters took to the streets to protest the results, and were met with harsh security crackdowns.
By Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

TEHRAN, June 23 -- The Iranian government stepped up pressure Tuesday on opponents challenging the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, setting up a special court to try detained protesters, carrying out new arrests and launching a campaign to publicly vilify those calling for a new vote.

Authorities also formally rejected the opposition's demands to annul the disputed June 12 presidential election on grounds of massive fraud and set a deadline of mid-August for Ahmadinejad's inauguration and the confirmation of his new cabinet.

But in an apparent effort to assuage the opposition, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, agreed to give a powerful supervisory body an additional five days to review the complaints of fraud.

President Obama's remarks Tuesday on the tumult seemed to strike a chord with at least some opposition supporters in Iran.

In an affluent North Tehran neighborhood, where people watched Obama's White House news conference on a big-screen satellite television, one woman commented: "He is following the right line. He should not give the regime an excuse to blame the U.S. for the protests."

Reporters "should grill him on human rights," a man said of Obama, while trying to work around censored Web sites on his computer.

On a day of relative calm after security forces broke up protests Monday, the government vowed to make an example of detained "rioters" and teach them a lesson. Hundreds of Iranians have been arrested in the past 10 days since the Interior Ministry declared that Ahmadinejad outpolled his nearest rival, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, by nearly 2 to 1. Mousavi has vowed to continue protesting despite a government ban on demonstrations and a public warning from Khamenei.

Truckloads of police in riot gear deployed at Tehran's main squares Tuesday to prevent a recurrence of the protests, and there were no signs of significant opposition gatherings.

A senior official of Iran's judiciary, which is controlled by the ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, said Tuesday that a special court would try detained protesters, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.

"Those arrested in recent events will be dealt with in a way that will teach them a lesson," the official, Ibrahim Raisi, was quoted as saying. "The rioters should be dealt with in an exemplary way, and the judiciary will do that." Raisi did not elaborate.

State-run Iranian radio has reported that more than 450 people were detained in clashes with security forces around Tehran's Azadi Square on Saturday, when 10 people were killed and at least 100 wounded. In addition, according to international advocacy groups, dozens of Iranian journalists have been arrested.

Despite acknowledged irregularities, Iran's Guardian Council, which is responsible for confirming election results, ruled out a new vote, saying the problems were not serious enough to change the outcome.

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