News / Middle East

    Iranian Lawmakers Demand Death Penalty for Opposition Leaders

    Iranian anti-government protesters set a garbage can on fire, in Tehran, Iran, February 14, 2011
    Iranian anti-government protesters set a garbage can on fire, in Tehran, Iran, February 14, 2011

    Iranian lawmakers are demanding that opposition leaders face the death penalty for organizing anti-government rallies in several Iranian cities on Monday.

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

    Iranian state news reports say more than 220 lawmakers signed a statement calling for the opposition leaders to be tried on the charges.  State television has shown video of some of the lawmakers 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.

    State-run media reports say two people were killed in Monday's protests and nine security force members were among the injured.  Several opposition websites quote deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan as saying that at least about 150 people have been arrested.

    Monday's rally drew thousands of activists to the streets of the capital in defiance of a government ban.

    Witnesses say Iranian security forces fired tear gas and paintball guns to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom chanted slogans comparing Iran's leaders to autocratic Arab rulers ousted by recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

    Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani accused the United States and its allies of using Iran's opposition movement as a tool to incite unrest.

    Activists who marched in Tehran Monday also chanted "death to the dictator," a slogan used by reformists who protested the re-election of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a disputed 2009 vote. By late Monday, similar chants echoed from Tehran rooftops, as they did during the unrest two years ago.

    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 Mr. Ahmadinejad in a vote they said was rigged, a charge the government denies.

    Iran's opposition says anti-government activists also marched in other cities Monday, including Isfahan, Shiraz and Kermanshah.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Iranian demonstrators as courageous and called on the government to follow Egypt's example by opening up its political system.  British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Iran to exercise restraint and allow people to express their views freely.

    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia as an Islamic awakening, akin to the 1979 revolution that ousted Iran's U.S.-backed shah.  But, authorities warned the opposition against organizing rallies in support of those revolts, fearing that such gatherings would turn into anti-government protests.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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