Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Iran raids raise pressure on opposition leaders

(AP)TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian security forces Tuesday cracked down on the opposition's campaign to highlight torture and abuse of prisoners in the country's postelection crisis, shutting down offices of pro-reform leaders and arresting five of their aides in a startling series of raids.

The raids hiked up the pressure against the top opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, who hard-line clerics and commanders of the powerful Revolutionary Guards have said should also be arrested.

The arrests suggested that authorities aim to crush the campaign led by Mousavi and Karroubi to bring to light alleged torture and rapes of protesters who were detained in the heavy crackdown against the opposition that followed the disputed June presidential election.

The abuse allegations have been deeply embarrassing for the Iranian government and the clerical leadership, amid reports that several detainees were tortured to death. Karroubi in particular has been vocal in demanding an official investigation into the allegations.

On Tuesday, security forces descended on Karroubi's personal office and the office of his National Confidence Party, said party spokesman, Esmaeil Gerami Moghaddam.

In the personal office, agents pushed by Karroubi himself and arrested one of his aides, Mohammad Davari, an editor of the party Web site, and at the party office, they arrested two other party members, he said.

The security forces sealed both offices and confiscated documents and CDs connected to the party's investigation into abuse allegations, Moghaddam told The Associated Press.

In another raid, security forces arrested Morteza Alviri, a top Karroubi aide and a former vice president, from his home. "I'm being taken away by security agents right now," Alviri told AP by telephone before the call was cut off.

Alviri was a member of a committee set up by Karroubi and Mousavi to probe the abuse allegations.

Also arrested Tuesday was Mousavi's representative to the committee, Ali Reza Beheshti, the pro-reform Web site Mowjcamp reported. Beheshti is the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, a prominent figure from the 1979 revolution and one of the architects of the Islamic Republic.

On Sunday evening, security agents raided a joint Karroubi-Mousavi office that was taking in reports of abuse from released protesters, Moghaddam said.

Karroubi and Mousavi both ran against incumbent hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 elections. The opposition says Ahmadinejad's victory in the vote was fraudulent and that Mousavi was the rightful winner.

Hundreds were arrested in the heavy crackdown crushing mass protests in support of Mousavi that erupted after the vote in the country's worst unrest since the Islamic Revolution. The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed, while the government has confirmed 30.

Tuesday's raids suggested the leadership wants to stamp out abuse allegations that have dismayed even many conservative supporters of the government.

But they also raised fears of a move against Mousavi or Karroubi. Last week, Ahmadinejad joined calls for the arrests of the top opposition leadership. Arresting Mousavi, Karroubi or the other top reformist former President Mohammad Khatami would be a major escalation.

Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam on Tuesday also warned the opposition against using an upcoming annual pro-Palestinian nationwide rally as an occasion to hold anti-government protests. The rally — known as Quds Day, referring to the Arabic word for Jerusalem — takes place on Sept. 18. It is usually an occasion for government supporters to denounce Israel and show support for the Palestinians.

"The main objective of the Quds Day should not be deviated from," Moghadam said, according to the state news agency IRNA.


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