x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Iran opposition warned by chief prosecutor not to hold rally

Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi want to stage a rally on Monday but Iran's chief prosecutor says they can expect a response from 'vigilant' Iranians if they do.

TEHRAN // Iran's chief prosecutor has warned opposition supporters not to hold a rally next week, saying they can expect a response from "vigilant" Iranians if they do, the semi-official Mehr news wire reported yesterday.

Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have applied to stage a rally on Monday in support of revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, hoping the uprisings there can revive their "Green movement" which was stamped out in the months following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election.

Although the government is unlikely to permit a rally organised by people it considers "seditionists", many Iranians have said they may attend in any case. A Facebook page dedicated to the day has more than 20,000 followers.

It would be the Green movement's first demonstration since December 2009 when eight protesters were killed and more than 1,000 arrested, ending months of mass protests during which Iran witnessed the worst unrest since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Qolam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the prosecutor general, said if Iranians want to show their support for protesters in North Africa, they should do so at nationwide government-sponsored rallies tomorrow marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"If a person really has the motivation to support the heroic people of Egypt and Tunisia, he will join the rally of Bahman 22 (February 11) along with the nation and the government," Mr Mohseni-Ejei said.

"Setting another date means these gentlemen have distanced themselves from the people and created division. This a political act. But the people of Iran are vigilant and if necessary they will respond."

Basij militia forces loyal to the government helped suppress Green movement protests in 2009.

In an interview with The New York Times, the cleric, Mr Karoubi, 73, said: "Next Monday will be a test for the Green movement.

"If the government issues a permit, there will be a huge demonstration and it will show how alive the Green movement is."

He did not say what might happen in the event the authorities deny permission, as seems likely.

Both sides of Iran's deep political divide have expressed solidarity with the North African uprisings that ousted Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and have put Egypt's Hosni Mubarak's 30-year tenure in jeopardy.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, described the uprisings as an "Islamic awakening", continuing the work started by Iranian revolutionaries. The Green movement leaders have said the Tunisian and Egyptian protesters borrowed slogans from their own protests in 2009 against an election result they say was rigged, a charge the government denies.