Politicians Demand Execution of Iran Protest Leaders

Iranian lawmakers denounced Monday’s protests in Tehran and called for the execution of two opposition leaders for inciting the demonstrations, Iran’s sate-run Press TV reported Tuesday. Members of the Iranian parliament issued fiery chants against opposition leaders and former presidential candidates Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Press TV aired video Tuesday of lawmakers chanting “Moussavi, Karrubi… execute them.” (CNN) Lawmakers also named former President Mohammad Khatami in some of the death chants.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said: “those who created public disorder on Monday will be confronted firmly and immediately.” (Reuters)

Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters when thousands rallied in sympathy for popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. They revived mass protests that shook Iran after a presidential vote in 2009. Kazem Jalali, a member of parliament, told the student news agency ISNA that two people were killed at a banned opposition rally in Iran. “At Monday’s rally… two people were martyred and many were wounded; one person was shot dead,” Kazem Jalali was quoted as saying. (Toronto Star) An opposition website said that at least 1,500 people were arrested while taking part in the banned protests.

“The efforts of the Supreme Leader were focused on trying to bring Mousavi and Karroubi back into the folds of the revolution,” Jalali said. “But these persons have purged themselvesfrom the system. The parliament demands the strongest punishment for Mousavi and Karroubi.” (Washington Post)

The calls for the leaders’ executions come after a particularly deadly month in Iran. At least 66 people were executed in January, according to Iranian media reports. Most of the executions were reportedly carried out for drug offenses, although at least three involved political prisoners, a U.N. statement said.

“Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Houssein Mousavi are corrupts on earth and should be tried,” a statement signed by 221 MP’s asserted. “We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment.” (BBC)

A spokesman for Mr. Moussavi said the protests showed that the so-called Green Movement, formed to challenge the disputed election in 2009, had scored a “great victory” and was “alive and well” despite a huge government crackdown when the government quashed dissent through the shooting of demonstrators, mass trials, torture, lengthy jail sentences, and even executions of some of those taking part. (New York Times)

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm earlier this month over the number of executions.

Iranian leaders have praised Egypt’s revolution, but Monday when protesters in Iran took to the streets the government cracked down hard. Last week, the Iranian government rounded up activists after Karrubi and Moussavi called for supporters to gather at Azadi Sqaure, the site of mass protests by Iran’s opposition movement after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

Despite the security crackdown, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Tehran Monday. Patrolling security forces battled protesters with batons and tear gas for much of the day. The massive crowd was largely cleared from the city’s streets by nightfall and the main squares near Tehran University remained free of police, security forces or protesters. Dozens of demonstrators were detained during Monday’s protests, while videos posted showed others had been chased and beaten. One person was shot and killed during the protests, according to Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency. Several others were injured and listed in serious condition as a result of the shooting, which the Iranian government blamed on “agitators and seditionists.” (CNN)

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that nine security force members were among those injured in the protests, which the country’s deputy police chief called “illegal gatherings… directed from America, England and Israel…. The hands of sedition leaders are drenched in blood and they should answer for these actions,” Ahmad Reza Radan said, according to IRNA. (CNN)

Video uploaded to YouTube showed throngs of demonstrators marching, burning protesters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and in one instance beating a man who appeared to try to remove a poster from the hands of protesters. Other YouTube video showed police in riot gear pursuing dozens of people running away from the baton-wielding officers. Other videos show similar protesters going on in other cities in Iran such as Shiraz and Isfahan. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the videos and witnesses declined to be named for fear of retribution.

Reporting from Iran proved extremely difficult Monday – foreign journalists were denied visas, accredited journalists living in the country were restricted from covering the demonstrations and internet speeds slowed to a crawl in an apparent attempt to both limit protest organizing and restrict information from being transmitted out of the country.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, released a statement Tuesday urging Iranian officials to “fully respect and protect the rights of other citizens, including freedom of expression and the rights to assemble peacefully.” (CNN)

President Mashmoud Ahmadinejad has said the opposition protests seen in Iranian cities on Monday are “going nowhere” and vowed to punish their organizers. Mr. Ahmadinejad told state television that “enemies” were trying to “tarnish the Iranian nation’s brilliance.” (BBC)

The Parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, accused the United States and its allies of providing support to the opposition following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. “The main aim of Americans was to simulate the recent events in the Middle East in Iran to divert attention from those countries,” Mr. Larijani said, according to state radio. (New York Times) Deputy Police Chief Ahmadreza Radan said, “We have information… that America, Britain and Israel guided the opposition leaders who called for the rally.” (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama sharply criticized the authorities’ response. “The world is changing,” Obama said in a message directed at autocratic rulers across the region. “You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity… You’ve got to get out ahead of change; you can’t be behind the curve.” (Toronto Star) Obama was asked at a White House news conference about the mood of changes sweeping the Middle East in sympathy with the opposition victory in Egypt. “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully,” he told reporters on Tuesday. Mr. Obama said the US could not dictate what went on inside Iran, but hoped people would have the “courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government.” (BBC) Obama said that with the advances in freedom of communication through smart phones and Twitter, it is more true than ever that governments must recognize that they must act with the consent of the people.

“We would hold to account the Iranian government, which is once again using its security forces and resorting to violence to prevent the free expression of ideas from their own people,” Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said Monday. “We support the universal rights of the Iranian people,” Clinton said. “They deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and that are part of their own birthright.” (CBC)

Not long afterwards, Iran’s president dismissed the protests in Tehran and other major cities, saying they had wanted to undermine a rally held last Friday to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. “It is clear the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a nation that wants to shine, conquer peaks and change [its international] relations,” he said. He added: “Of course, there is a lot of hostility against the government. But they knew that they would get nowhere.” (BBC) “It is a shining sun. They threw some dust towards the sun… but the dust will return to their eyes,” he warned. (BBC)

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said the calls for protesters to be executed were unacceptable. “The hypocrisy of Iranian authorities’ calls for democracy in Egypt and suppression of the same demands in Iran is deeply disturbing,” Cannon said. “Iranians gathered by the thousands to march in support of recent events in Egypt. The use of tear gas, batons and pepper spray against them by Iranian security forces was a gross violation of their rights to free expression and assembly, Iranian citizens should be free to express their political views and affiliations without fear of punishment or imprisonment,” he said in a statement. (CBC)

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