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Iran opposition leaders request OK to commemorate dead

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Iran opposition leaders request OK to commemorate dead

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi and a fellow presidential candidate are requesting a permit to hold a commemoration ceremony for those killed in the fallout after the June 12 elections, according to a post on Moussavi’s Web site Sunday.

At least 20 protesters were killed and more than 1,000 were arrested in Tehran in the first few days after the election, according to human rights groups.

Moussavi, a reformist and chief rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and fellow candidate Mehdi Karrubi sent the letter requesting a permit for the ceremony to the Islamic republic’s interior minister, according to Moussavi’s Ghalam News Web site.

The candidates want to hold the ceremony on Thursday at the site for Friday prayers, saying the date would signify the 40th day after the chaotic street demonstrations. For Iranians, a predominantly Shiite Muslim population, the 40th day marks the last official day of mourning in the immediate aftermath of a death.

The letter indicates that there will be no speeches at the proposed ceremony — only recitations from the Quran. Those who attend would be asked to pay their respects to the dead protesters by remaining silent, the letter says

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Iran’s opposition asks to mourn iconic victim

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Iran’s opposition asks to mourn iconic victim

Iran’s opposition leader asked authorities Sunday for permission to hold a memorial service for victims of last month’s post-election unrest, including a young woman whose death was caught on video and became a symbol for protesters.

Iranian authorities have pressured the families of slain protesters not to mourn publicly out of fear the gatherings could spark the kind of demonstrations that followed the June 12 presidential vote, according to the opposition.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and fellow pro-reform presidential candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, sent a request to the Interior Ministry to hold a memorial service in Tehran’s Mosalla mosque Thursday to commemorate the end of the 40-day mourning cycle for at least 10 people killed on June 20, Mousavi’s top aide Ali Reza Beheshti told the Associated Press.

Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters took to the streets following the election to protest hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory. Iranian security forces cracked down violently, and at least 20 protesters were killed during the unrest, according to police. Rights groups believe the number could be far greater.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say over all state matters, has demanded the opposition drop its claims that the election was marred by massive vote fraud. But Mousavi and his supporters have kept up the pressure by criticizing the state’s harsh response and reaching out to top clerics for support.

One of those killed on June 20 was Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old woman shot to death on the sidelines of a Tehran demonstration. Her dying moments on the street were caught on a video viewed by millions on YouTube, and she became an icon in the opposition’s struggle.

Mousavi and Karroubi attempted to assuage concerns that the requested memorial would spark additional unrest, saying it “will be held without any speeches and will be limited to the reciting of the Quran (the Muslim holy book) and moments of silence.”

The government’s concern about unrest has historical precedence. The deaths of protesters during the 1979 Islamic Revolution fueled a 40-day cycle of mourning marches, and shootings of mourners, that contributed to the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Authorities allowed a close ally of conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei to hold a funeral in Tehran on Friday for his son, who was arrested during a protest on July 9, the pro-reform norooznews.org Web site reported. He was taken to a hospital two weeks later where he died from his injuries hours after being admitted, it said.

Rouhalmini’s father, Abdul-Hossein, had scheduled to hold a memorial for his son Sunday but canceled the ceremony at the last minute without elaborating, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. The Etemad-e-Melli newspaper reported earlier Sunday that Mousavi and Karroubi would attend the memorial, possibly raising fears it would turn into a demonstration.

A group of nearly 50 Mousavi supporters showed up at the site of Rouhalmini’s planned memorial Sunday to protest against the government’s crackdown on the opposition, said eyewitnesses, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Many Iranian policemen were also at the scene, they said.

Dozens of protesters gathered in north Tehran on Saturday and chanted “death to the dictator” and “we want our vote back” before they were attacked and beaten by police and the Basij.

Police arrested “a few” of the protesters after the demonstration, Mehr quoted deputy police chief, Col. Mohsen Khancherli, as saying Sunday.

Witnesses told the AP that Saturday’s demonstration was carried out in solidarity with people around the world who held coordinated protests to pressure Iran to end its violent crackdown on the opposition and release hundreds of people who are still being detained.

Also Saturday, 69 prominent opposition leaders, including Mousavi and Karroubi, appealed to top clerics in the holy city of Qom to help stop the government’s violent post-election crackdown — reaching out to the one group that could go head-to-head with the country’s supreme leader.


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Khatami: Referendum can end Iran’s election crisis

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Khatami: Referendum can end Iran’s election crisis

Former president Mohammad Khatami has called for a nationwide referendum on the legitimacy of the government, saying Iranians have lost faith in their political leaders after last month’s disputed election.

The opposition charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election through mass fraud.

“Durability of order and continuation of the country’s progress hinge on restoring public trust,” Khatami, a popular reformist, said, according to the sites.

“From the start, we said there is a legal way to regain that trust. I openly say now that the solution to get out of the current crisis is holding a referendum.”

Khatami, according to the Web sites, also accused hard-liners of undermining democracy and challenging the foundations of the Islamic republic when they chose to stand by the election results.

“We need to ask the people whether they are satisfied with the current situation? If a majority of the people are happy with this situation, we will submit (to their vote),” he said, referring to the referendum.

It is too early to say whether Khatami’s call for a referendum would be adopted by authorities, but it constitutes the latest challenge to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran‘s supreme leader who has the last word on state matters. Khamenei has declared the results of the elections valid.

Under Iran’s constitution, a referendum has to be ordered by Khamenei himself. All popular votes in Iran are monitored by an oversight body, the Guardian Council. Khatami, however, proposed that a neutral body, such as the Expediency Council, should monitor the proposed referendum instead.

Reformists have accused the Guardian Council of openly supporting Ahmadinejad in the election dispute.

The Expediency Council is a powerful clerical body that arbitrates disputes between the legislature and the government. It also advises Khamenei.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi claims he won the election, saying official results showing a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad are fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi’s supporters have staged street protests to denounce the results.

At least 20 protesters have since been killed and hundreds detained in clashes with security forces.

Khatami’s suggestion that a referendum be held as a way out of the ongoing crisis comes just days after another former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, criticized the government’s response to the election dispute in his first public comments since the election.

Rafsanjani denounced the government’s violent crackdown against protesters and demanded the release of those detained. Instead of suppression, he said the government should work to address the concerns Iranians have over the legitimacy of the vote.

The sermon was a direct challenge to Khamenei and his hard-line supporters, who have said the election was fair and have called on opposition supporters to drop their claims of vote fraud. They have accused the U.S. and other foreign countries of fomenting the unrest — a charge they have denied.

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