Iranian Political Forces Call for Opposition Leaders' Arrest, State Media Say

Dozens of opposition activists have stood trial in this courtroom in Tehran. Officials have urged the arrest of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Dozens of opposition activists have stood trial in this courtroom in Tehran. Officials have urged the arrest of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. (By Ali Rafiee -- Associated Press)
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 10, 2009

TEHRAN, Aug. 9 -- Revolutionary Guard generals, top politicians and senior clerics have called for the arrest and punishment of opposition leaders, including defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iranian state media reported Sunday, while the national police chief acknowledged that protesters had been mistreated while in custody.

The calls for arrests come as part of a crackdown against opposition activists who continue to dispute June's presidential vote, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially won in a landslide but which Mousavi and his supporters say was stolen.

In recent weeks, the government has staged mass trials in which activists have given controversial confessions, admitting involvement in elaborate, internationally backed plots to bring what prosecutors call "a nonmilitary velvet revolution" to the Islamic republic. Opposition leaders have charged that the confessions are coerced and have vowed to continue the protests that have deeply unsettled Iran in recent weeks.

"In order to end this mayhem, they need to arrest, try and punish these political figures," Gen. Yadollah Javani, head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, advised the judicial system Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA. "These individuals should be prosecuted, punished and tried as traitors." He singled out Mousavi, fellow defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami. The Revolutionary Guard is a force that plays a highly influential role in politics.

Mohammad Karami-Rad, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told Iran's Journalists Club on Sunday that the government was pursuing a complaint against Mousavi, but he did not provide details.

Coupled with the trials already underway, charges against Mousavi and other top opposition figures would mark an unprecedented attempt to purge a faction that has been part of the nation's political fabric since the Islamic revolution 30 years ago. It comes after a decades-long dispute between the faction now represented by Ahmadinejad and the one now led by Mousavi, which erupted into open conflict in the run-up to the elections.

Defendants in the trials include opposition politicians, activists and journalists. The defendants have not had access to their lawyers.

Government supporters defend the trials by citing a speech by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on June 19 in which he not only expressed support for Ahmadinejad but also warned the leaders of the demonstrations that they would be held responsible for any violence.

"The leader told Mousavi to pursue his complaints through legal channels, but he instead called for protests. And the protesters turned violent, attacked several places and killed many people," Hossein Taeb, the commander of the volunteer Basij paramilitary force, said Sunday, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. Taeb said Mousavi and his followers were guilty of "an evil plot" and alleged that they do not "want the revolution to make progress and see its fourth decade."

The majority of those killed during the protests are believed to have been demonstrators, though security officers also died.

If the trials yield convictions, the government will have a basis for banning opposition parties and newspapers, paving the way for arrests of anyone protesting against the government. Convictions could also substantially narrow the field in any future vote, as Iranian law prohibits candidates with criminal records from participating in elections.

Mousavi has not been heard from in days. Karroubi called for an investigation of alleged sexual abuse of prisoners, Saham News reported Sunday. "I heard accounts of boys and girls being violently raped in prison," he wrote in a letter to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a senior cleric and former president who analysts say supports Mousavi.

Meanwhile, a controversy over a prison closed on orders of Iran's supreme leader because of "substandard conditions" continued Sunday. Iran's national police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, admitted that abuse had occurred in Kahrizak prison but said that two prisoners had died of disease, not torture.

"This detention center was built to house dangerous criminals. Housing people related to recent riots caused an outbreak of diseases," IRNA quoted Ahmadi-Moqaddam as saying. Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi called for those responsible for mistreating detainees to be punished for "violations and carelessness," IRNA reported.

He said that authorities had been told not to take protesters to Kahrizak but that they ignored the order. Rights groups have identified at least three protesters they say died after being detained at Kahrizak.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company