Friday, 14 August 2009

A leading Iranian cleric criticises European nations and particularly Britain

A hardline Iranian cleric says Iran's judiciary should resist attempts by European powers to bully them into releasing Western-linked detainees held over the unrest that followed the disputed presidential election.

TEHRAN, IRAN (AUGUST 14, 2009) REUTERS - A hardline Iranian cleric on Friday (August 14) said Iran's judiciary should resist attempts by European powers to bully them into releasing Western-linked detainees held over the unrest that followed the disputed presidential election.
In a speech broadcast live on state radio, senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University that Britain and other states had used their embassies in Iran to plot against the clerical leadership.

Iran has staged mass trials of those arrested after the June 12 vote, including a Frenchwoman and Iranian employees of the British and French embassies. The process seems to be aimed at uprooting the opposition and putting an end to protests.

"It became clear during some of the trials that some embassies in Iran, particularly the British embassy, were involved in some plots. This is a shameful act by a government, which even allowed its embassy personnel to take part in street disturbances. Such actions fly in the face of accepted norms of diplomacy," Khatami said.

Khatami is a member of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful, conservative-dominated panel of 86 clerics that has the right to elect and dismiss Iran's Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He told worshippers: "Our people expect the country's judicial system to act decisively and to strongly and firmly stand up against the bullying tactics of European nations."

The opposition says the June poll was rigged to secure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The authorities say Ahmadinejad's landslide win was an accurate reflection of the voters' wishes.

Mass street protests over the vote triggered the worst unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The authorities' failure to end weeks of criticism by opposition figures has highlighted deep divisions in the establishment.

The fallout from the post-election unrest has further clouded the prospect of Iran accepting U.S. President Barack Obama's offer of direct talks on Iran's nuclear programme. Tehran denies that it has nuclear arms ambitions.

Mehdi Karoubi, the most liberal of the candidates that lost to Ahmadinejad, has angered hardliners by alleging that some of those arrested after the election were tortured to death.

He has also alleged on his Internet website that male and female prisoners in Tehran's Kahrizak prison were raped, a charge the authorities have rejected as "baseless".

Khatami, in forthright criticism of Karoubi, said the allegations of the former parliament speaker had "made America, Israel and other enemies happy".

"This letter harmed the system's prestige. We expect the Islamic system to confront him properly ... for issuing such a letter that was baseless and full of sheer lies, according to the judiciary and parliament."