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Updated: February 15, 2011 17:08 IST

Put opposition leaders on trial: Iranian lawmakers

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Protesters hold a defaced poster of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein while chanting anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad. File photo: AP.
Protesters hold a defaced poster of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein while chanting anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad. File photo: AP.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally on Monday in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years in power. The demonstration was the first major show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition in more than a year.

Hardline Iranian lawmakers called on Tuesday for the country’s opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death, a day after clashes between opposition protesters and security forces left one person dead and dozens injured.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally on Monday in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years in power. The demonstration was the first major show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition in more than a year.

At an open session of parliament on Tuesday, pro—government legislators chanted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Kahatami,” referring to opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

More than 220 lawmakers said in a statement that the trio should be held responsible for the unrest. “We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders, the statement said.

Hardliners have long sought to put high—ranking opposition figures on trial, but the calls for the death penalty signalled an escalation in their demands.

"Bid to stifle the opposition"

Authorities appeared to be moving quickly in a bid to stifle the opposition before its gains momentum, issuing promises of swift action against leaders and activists, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“The judiciary will quickly and resolutely deal with major elements and those who violated public order and peace,” the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary and state prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, told IRNA.

After Monday’s protests broke out, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed support for the Iranian demonstrators, saying they “deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, on Tuesday rejected Ms. Clinton’s remarks, and accused the U.S. of “meddling” in Iranian affairs.

Opposition figures already tried

Iran has already tried scores of opposition figures and activists on charges of fomenting the mass protests following the country’s disputed 2009 presidential elections that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term.

More than 80 of them were sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years. The opposition says scores were killed in the massive crackdown on those protests, while the government says only around 30 people died.

Also Tuesday, Iranian officials confirmed that one person was killed in Monday’s protests.

IRNA quoted the security chief for Iran’s Culture Ministry, Gholam Ali Zarei, as saying Sane Jaleh, a 26—year—old student at Tehran’s University of Art, was killed during the protests. He said Jaleh was a government supporter.

Acting police commander Gen. Ahmad Reza Radan told IRNA that one person injured in the clashes is in critical condition. He also confirmed that several people were arrested, but did not say how many.

Gen. Radan claimed that members of the armed opposition group MEK, or Mujahedeen Khalq, opened fire at police and protesters, IRNA said. He did not provide any evidence to back up his claim.

He also accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of stoking the protests - a common allegation from officials in Tehran following any unrest in Iran.

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