News / Middle East

    Iran Cracks Down on Spiraling Protests

    Leaders of Iranian opposition, Mahdi Karroubi, right, and Mir Hossein Mousavi (file photo)
    Leaders of Iranian opposition, Mahdi Karroubi, right, and Mir Hossein Mousavi (file photo)

    Lawmakers in Iran have called for the execution of two opposition leaders who supported Monday's rallies in Tehran.

    The conservative lawmakers said Tuesday opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi should be tried for sedition, an offense punishable by death.

    State TV showed some 50 conservative MPs marching through parliament's main hall on Tuesday, chanting "Death to Mousavi, death to Karroubi."

    The two reformists had called Monday's rallies in Tehran and elsewhere to show solidarity with recent Arab uprisings against authoritarian governments.

    Iran has warned foreign powers against getting involved.

    "We think that the shared desire of all the nations in the region is for the oppressive countries not to meddle - especially in the face of the violations and encroachment of the Zionist regime - and to cut off dependence from the U.S. and the Zionist regimes and their supporters,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that her country “very clearly and directly” supports the protesters.

    The rally in Tehran follows major popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt that forced out both countries’ longtime rulers.

    Mass protests last erupted in Iran after the disputed presidential election in 2009. The opposition says more than 80 people were killed in the security crackdown that followed, although this figure is disputed by the government.

    Rosemary Hollis, a Middle East expert at London’s City University, says security forces reacted forcefully to Monday’s protest in order to avoid a repeat in Iran of what’s happened elsewhere.

    "Essentially what this proves, the rough response of the government, that they deduced from last year and from watching what happened in Egypt and other places that their only option if they are not to be seriously challenged domestically is to clamp down very hard and very fast," Hollis said.

    Iranian security forces prevented Mousavi and Karroubi from joining the rallies by surrounding their homes in the capital. The two men also led the 2009 protests after losing to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote they said was rigged, a charge the government denies.

    Although Iran's establishment supported the Egyptian and Tunisian protests, describing them as an "Islamic awakening" inspired by Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, it said the Iranian opposition rallies were a "political move."

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