Iran marks a year since presidential poll

June 12, 2010 12:00 am

, TEHRAN, Jun 12 – Iran on Saturday marks one year since a disputed presidential election returned hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, with his rivals uncompromising in their continued opposition to his rule.

However, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have called off plans to stage fresh anti-government demonstrations over safety concerns as the authorities vowed to crack down on any new protests.

The security forces used deadly force to quell the massive street demonstrations that erupted after the results of the June 12 vote last year — a poll which the opposition charged had been massively rigged.

Street protests against Ahmadinejad have not now been held for months, and Tehran\’s hardline governor renewed warnings on Friday against any attempts to demonstrate on Saturday.

"Any illegal move to disrupt public order and trouble people will not be tolerated and will be dealt with," Morteza Tamaddon was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Ahmadinejad\’s re-election bitterly divided Iran\’s political elite, and the regime\’s subsequent crackdown on protesters drew a torrent of international condemnation.

The authorities, led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the unrest on Western powers, accusing them of masterminding the protests in a bid to topple the Islamic regime.

But former premier Mousavi and ex-parliament speaker Karroubi, who were close to Iran\’s revolutionary father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, brush aside such allegations.

For them, the opposition "Green Movement" is a grassroots initiative pursuing the aspirations of Iran\’s 1979 revolution, including free elections, freedom of expression and respect for human rights.

Late on Friday, Mousavi said on opposition website Rahesabz that the current rule has distanced itself from the intial goals of revolution and the constitution and is now "shutting peoples\’ mouths, curbing the media and holding elections as we saw last year and filling the prisons."

US President Barack Obama, whose country has had no diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic for three decades, on Thursday urged the world to support the Iranian people in their fight for "freedom."

"The courage of the Iranian people stands as an example to us and it challenges us to continue our efforts to bend the arch of history in the direction of justice," Obama said in a statement.

Last year\’s election would be "remembered for how the Iranian government brutally suppressed dissent and murdered the innocent, including a young woman left to die in the street," he said.

Obama was referring to mobile phone video of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death on the ground, footage seen worldwide that came to symbolise the uprising against the government.

After a boisterous and vibrant pre-election campaign by supporters of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, the polling day was followed by running street battles between security forces and anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in Tehran and other cities, with dozens of people reported killed.

In a keynote speech a week after the vote, Khamenei praised Iranians for the mass turnout, but condemned the protesters and openly sided with Ahmadinejad.

An intense cat-and-mouse chase between protesters and security forces lasted throughout the summer into the winter.

The regime reacted with an iron fist, rounding up politicians and journalists close to Mousavi and Karroubi and also unleashing the feared Basij Islamic militia on those who dared to demonstrate.

In its annual report for 2009, Amnesty International said more than 5,000 people had been arrested, and charged that "compelling evidence emerged that a number of detainees, both women and men, had been raped and otherwise tortured in detention."

The authorities reacted furiously to the accusations of rape first made by Karroubi. But they were forced to admit abuses at south Tehran\’s notorious Kahrizak detention centre, which was closed after at least three protesters died of injuries there.

Iran has also sentenced 10 protesters to death and hanged seven people on security charges unrelated to the election — but seen as a warning to opposition groups.


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