x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Mousavi defiant after new threats

Iran's opposition leader, Mir Houssein Mousavi, faces calls for his execution but pledges to remain defiant.

TEHRAN // Iran's opposition leader today pledged to remain defiant in the face of new threats - including calls by hardliners for his execution - and said he would sacrifice his life in defence of the people's right to protest peacefully against the government. Mir Hossein Mousavi's remarks come after the worst unrest since the immediate aftermath of the disputed June presidential election. At least eight people died during anti-government protests on Sunday, including Mr Mousavi's nephew.

In one of his strongest statements to date, Mr Mousavi said he was "ready for martyrdom" and lashed out at the bloody crackdown the authorities are waging against the opposition. He said the government was making more mistakes by resorting to violence and killings, and that it must accept the people's rights to hold peaceful demonstrations. Iranian hardliners have called for the execution of Mr Mousavi and other opposition figures, while a previously unknown group claimed in an online posting that suicide squads were ready to assassinate opposition leaders should the judiciary fail to punish them within a week.

Iran's state prosecutor yesterday warned opposition leaders could be put on trial if they don't denounce this week's anti-government protests. "I explicitly and clearly state that an order to execute, murder and imprison [opposition leaders] ... won't resolve the problem," Mr Mousavi said in a statement on his website, Kaleme. "I'm not afraid to be one of the martyrs people have offered in the struggle for their just demands."

The confrontation between clerical rulers and their opponents returned to the streets in recent weeks, after a harsh crackdown immediately following the June 12 balloting all but crushed the opposition movement. One of those killed in clashes on Sunday between security forces and opposition protesters was Mr Mousavi's nephew, Ali Mousavi. He was gunned down but authorities claimed police didn't use firearms and said the nephew was "assassinated" by unknown assailants.

* AP