Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei warns opposition ahead of key anniversary
Just ahead of the one-year anniversary of Iran's disputed presidential election, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei told Iranians to be watchful for opponents. But he also has pardoned or commuted sentences in recent days for 81 detainees jailed during protests.
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Security forces have said they will prevent any illegal gatherings. Last February, they succeeded with heavy police and militia deployments in preventing almost all opposition turnout on the streets despite a universal call to protest from opposition leaders to mark the 31st anniversary of the revolution.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Ahmadinejad, who spoke before Khamenei at the mausoleum, was even more pointed in his criticism of the opposition. The firebrand arch-conservative said Iranian believers were alert to all treachery against the regime, and would crush the opposition.
“Whoever deviates from the path of the Imam, despite whatever power he holds, he will be thrown away by the strong hand of the people,” Ahmadinejad said.
Despite the controversy over fraud in the election, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly declared that Iran’s democracy is perfect, asserting as he did on Friday that Iran has “the most democratic government in the world and last year we witnessed it.”
Ahmadinejad said the opposition were “claiming they were followers of Khomeini’s pure path,” but had fallen in with monarchists and Western powers that were the “worst enemies” of Khomeini.
“According to the Imam, preserving the regime is of the highest importance,” the president said. “I am sorry to say that those who are tarnishing the reputation of the Islamic Republic cannot claim to be followers of the Imam.”
Taking the podium after Ahmadinejad was the grandson of Khomeini himself, cleric Hassan Khomeini, the caretaker of the shrine. But he has spoken out against hard-line rule in Iran, and was shouted down by elements of the crowd – some of them chanting “Death to [opposition leader Mir Hossein] Mousavi!” – and was not able to speak for more than a few minutes.
“The dignity of the anniversary does not deserve what this small group is doing,” he said, referring to those who disrupted his speech with chanting. The ILNA news agency reported that other members of the Khomeini family left in protest after the incident, according to the Associated Press.
Leaflets showing grandson Khomeini at past events alongside opposition leaders were reportedly handed out by hard-liners at the event. During Khamenei’s subsequent speech, state TV showed him sitting with his head in his hands in apparent dismay.
As the crowd shouted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" – though without the passion of past performances – Khamenei spent time explaining that even going back to the first famous Shiite imams of the 7th century, a positive past record was no substitute for current poor performance.
He sought to explain how former regime stalwarts strayed from the true path of the revolution, and should be held to account today. Clear in his sights were opposition leaders Mr. Mousavi, prime minister for most of the 1980s who was close to Khomeini, former two-time parliament speaker and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, and former two-time president Mohammad Khatami.