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Iran to release one of three US hikers amid pressures at home and abroad

In addition to facing outside pressures on nuclear initiatives and human rights issues such as the US hikers, Iranian officials still fear the opposition Green Movement at home.

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In scenes reminiscent of the political violence that has sometimes marred Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and long before that, last week firebombs were thrown by the mob and one of Karroubi’s bodyguards was beaten unconscious, the latest acts that prompted widespread condemnation inside and outside Iran.

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The assault prevented Karroubi from joining the rally, as basiji militiamen broke down the front door and guards fired warning shots, according to the pro-opposition Sahamnews website. Security cameras were torn down, graffiti sprayed, and plainclothes men riding motorcycles used by pro-regime vigilantes came by the dozen.

Karroubi writes scathing letter, wins high-ranking sympathy

In a scathing letter written Sept. 8, Karroubi lambasted “thugs headed and organized by an ungodly and doomed group” who had engaged in “vulgar shows and childish intimidations.”

“I ask myself what has happened to this revolution that today the security and police forces and the judiciary management of this country of 70 million people is weak and pathetic and in control of a few goons, letting the world and global community criticize our civilized people,” wrote Karroubi.

Police did not intervene, though Karroubi is a former speaker of parliament and two-time presidential candidate. Especially loathed by hard-line supporters of the government because of charges he made last year of rape in Iranian prisons, Karroubi nonetheless won some high-ranking sympathy amid last week's assault.

Criticism of the attacks from many quarters, including ranking clerics and the reform-leaning family members of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution – was so severe that the Revolutionary Guard, uncharacteristically, claimed that its forces and the basiji under its command were not responsible.

“That statement is another lie, but fortunately because of the pressure on the government, they had to issue a statement saying they didn’t do this action,” says Fatemeh Haghighatjou, a former reformist parliamentarian sentenced to jail time, who left Iran several years ago and now teaches in Boston. She remains in touch with opposition leaders.

“It is impossible in Iran’s atmosphere that somebody without permission can surround Mr. Karroubi’s house for five days, and nobody does anything,” says Haghighatjou. “The government is testing the sensitivity of [Iran’s] people and the international community to prosecute the Green Movement leaders.”

Cat-and-mouse game

Almost 15 months after the contested election, which saw unprecedented street protests against the officially declared landslide reelection of archconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the regime has not quelled the underlying anger. Scores if not hundreds were killed, and 4,000 were arrested in the first weeks of violence.