Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Iran's senior ayatollah slams election, confirming split
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
TEHRAN, Iran — Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, massed in competing rallies Tuesday as the country's most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad's re-election was rigged.
"No one in their right mind can believe" the official results from Friday's contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi's charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers "in the worst way possible."
"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," he declared in comments on his official Web site. "I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."
As many as three more protesters were reported killed in clashes during Tuesday's opposition demonstration in Vanak Square — adding to eight who were confirmed killed in Monday's protests.
Foreign news organizations were barred from covering Wednesday's demonstrations, and the source of the report of the latest deaths was a witness known to McClatchy, who asked that his name not be used for his own security.
Tehran residents, who spoke to a McClatchy reporter on condition that their names not be published, said there was widespread intimidation by thousands of members of the Basij, a hard-line Islamic volunteer militia loyal to the Islamic regime.
Iranian bloggers reported scattered violence after dark by Basij members.
Nor were reports of violence limited to the capital.