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

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs