News / Middle East

Tehran Prosecutor Warns of Prosecution of Top Opposition Leaders

Leaders of Iranian opposition, Mahdi Karroubi, right, and Mir Hossein Mousavi talk in Tehran, 10 Oct 2009
Leaders of Iranian opposition, Mahdi Karroubi, right, and Mir Hossein Mousavi talk in Tehran, 10 Oct 2009

Tehran's chief prosecutor is warning Friday that Iran's top opposition leaders will soon stand trial for a wave of popular unrest following a controversial June 2009 presidential election. The warning comes amid increasing popular discontent following a recent government cut in subsidies on many basic items, including food and gasoline.

Prosecutor Abbas Jaffari Dolatabadi spoke at Tehran University's prayer gathering Friday to when he issued the warning. Such threats have been made before by government leaders, but never carried out.

Hardline government officials, including Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have long condemned opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammed Khatami for causing a lengthy wave of popular unrest in 2009.

Moussavi claimed that he won a 2009 presidential election, but was denied victory due to widespread fraud and voting irregularities. Millions of opposition supporters backed his claim and took to the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities in the days and weeks after the election.

Tehran prosecutor Dolatabadi insisted that the sedition leaders were guilty of serious crimes against the state. He said the charge of causing sedition is a serious one and that the leaders of this sedition (an oblique reference to Moussavi, Karroubi and Khatami) are criminals and must be prosecuted. He claimed the Iranian public has denounced those leaders (through counter-protests) and said that acts of accusation are now being prepared against them. He also blamed them for damaging public trust, public property and Iran's image, as well as furthering foreign plots.

Scott Lucas, who teaches at the University of Birmingham in Britain, and runs the popular Iran blog Enduring America, believes that Iran's hardliners are using the threat of prosecution to put a leash on Moussavi and Karroubi, with tensions running high over government subsidy cuts.

"On the one hand, they've got both of them fairly well contained - they've got their staffs fairly well contained - but there is always the worry at some point Moussavi basically crosses what they would see as a line, comes out too stridently in calling the opposition out," said Lucas. "And then, what are they going to do about it?"

Lucas also pointed out that the head of Iran's intelligence ministry also is making threats against former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsandjani's son. This, he argues, is a form of blackmail to stop him from breaking with the regime and questioning its policies.

Houchang Hassanyari, who teaches political science at Canada's Royal Military College, thinks the threat to prosecute Moussavi, Karroubi and Khatami stems from a challenge by Khatami several days ago to release prisoners and reform Iran's political system. "He [Khatami] laid out three conditions for the Islamic Republic to get out of this crisis that it's facing. The first is to release all political prisoners, the second is to organize fair and just elections, and the third is to accept democratic values," said Hassanyari.

Hassanyari also thinks that a recent wave of subsidy cuts are starting to hit the Iranian public where it hurts, and officials are worried about a popular backlash.

Nader Hashemi, who teaches at the University of Denver, argues that the Iranian government is obsessing with the opposition because Thursday was the first anniversary of a major opposition protest. The government, he argues, is facing a crisis of legitimacy.

"On the one hand the regime has consistently said since the last presidential election that the protesters, that the Green movement, are a bunch of street hooligans, they're small in number, they're insignificant, we've crushed them, it's over," said Hashemi. "But, on the other hand, seemingly, every single week, a high member of the Iranian regime is speaking out and condemning and raising new charges against the Green Movement. So, if the Green movement is insignificant, is dead, is crushed, why do you constantly speak about them?"

Hashemi believes that the government has "lost its credibility in the eyes of the Iranian public," since the 2009 election and that it is trying to solve the problem by inventing "grand and elaborate theories of a foreign inspired coup," and accusing opposition leaders of being a part of it. He concludes that "foreign policy misadventures" and "subsidy cuts," are merely secondary issues.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs