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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs