Iranian cleric says “rioters” should be executed

Published on Reuters.com, by Parisa Hafezi, June 26, 2009.

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A hardline Iranian cleric called on Friday for the execution of leading “rioters” to teach a lesson to the tens of thousands who have protested against the result of the presidential election two weeks ago.

(EDITORS’ NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran).

Iran’s top legislative body, the Guardian Council, said it had found no major violations in the election, which it described as the “healthiest” since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but said 10 percent of ballot boxes would be recounted. 

The council has rejected a call for the annulment of the vote by moderate former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, who has led mass protests since he was declared a distant second in the election behind incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“I want the judiciary to … punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson,” Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University …

… The authorities have used a combination of warnings, arrests and the threat of police action to drive large demonstrations off Tehran’s street since Saturday with small gatherings dispersed with tear gas and baton charges.

Russia, which along with China congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election earlier this month, said on Friday it was seriously concerned by the use of force in Iran.

Russia was among G8 countries anxious not to slam the door on possible talks with Iran, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, over its disputed nuclear program.

“We sincerely hope that Iran will seize this opportunity to give diplomacy a chance to find a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue,” the G8 statement said.

The 12-man Guardian Council’s statement leaves little scope for more legal challenges to the election result, short of an attack on the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has expressed strong support for Ahmadinejad …

… Mousavi said he was determined to keep challenging the election results despite pressure to stop. “A major rigging has happened,” his website reported him as saying. “I am prepared to prove that those behind the rigging are responsible for the bloodshed.”

He called on his supporters to continue “legal” protests and said restrictions on the opposition could lead to more violence. (full text).

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