Ahmadinejad calls for prosecution of Iran’s opposition leaders


The president says post-election unrest was part of a foreign plot carried out by ‘subversives.’ His demand runs counter to supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who gave a conciliatory speech Wednesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech during the weekly Friday prayers at Tehran University. (Behrouz Mehri, AFP/Getty Images / August 28, 2009)

By Borzou Daragahi

8:46 AM PDT, August 28, 2009

Reporting from Beirut

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded the prosecution of opposition leaders today, raising the nation’s political temperature just a day and a half after supreme leader Ali Khamenei sought to cool tempers in a conciliatory speech.

In a pre-sermon speech at weekly prayers in Tehran, the capital, Ahmadinejad did not explicitly name his rivals Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, but left little doubt he was speaking about them in calling for the punishment of the “masterminds” who allegedly spurred weeks of unrest that followed his widely disputed June 12 reelection.

“The most important task for the judiciary and security bodies is to deal seriously with the leaders and masterminds” of the unrest, he said. “All of those who organized and instigated [the riots] and followed the enemy line have to be seriously confronted. The masterminds of the riots should by no means enjoy any immunity.”

The crowd inside the Tehran University venue chanted, “Execution for the ringleaders!”

Although a crackdown appears to have halted a protest movement that erupted amid allegations of vote-rigging in the election, it has failed to quiet reformist and moderate politicians who continue to defy hard-liners’ threats to have them jailed.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article referred to Mohammad Khatami as the Iranian president. He’s a former president.

“We will not budge regardless of all the pressures aimed at dislodging reformists,” former President Mohammad Khatami said at a meeting of political activists Thursday night. “We can no longer defend our Islamic Republic against rigid-minded, extremist and inhumane groups working under the name of Islam.”

On Wednesday, Khamenei made a conciliatory speech welcoming the opposition back into the political fold. He rejected the assertion made by Ahmadinejad’s supporters that opposition figures were backed by foreigners, and vowed to go after hard-line activists and security personnel who committed acts of violence against protesters, prisoners and students in the recent unrest. Continue reading