Supreme leader says Iran's opposition violates law

Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:48pm EST
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By Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader issued a stern warning to the pro-reform opposition on Sunday, accusing it of violating the law by insulting the memory of the Islamic Republic's revered founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Declaring opposition rallies were illegal, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made it clear he would not tolerate any more protests by reformers seeking to revive their challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad six months after his disputed re-election.

Iran's top authority effectively sided with hardliners calling for tougher action against the opposition, which has continued to show defiance over a poll it says was rigged in the conservative incumbent's favor.

Tension has increased in Iran since student backers of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi last Monday clashed in Tehran with security forces armed with batons and tear gas in the largest such anti-government demonstration in months.

State television has broadcast footage of what it said were opposition supporters tearing up and trampling on a picture of late revolutionary leader Khomeini during the December 7 protests.

"They are openly violating the law, they insulted Imam Khomeini," Khamenei said in a hard-hitting televised speech.

Ahmadinejad said those who insulted Khomeini should apologize: "The people are angry at those who carried out such an act," he told reporters, according to ISNA news agency.

The opposition earlier accused the authorities of planning to use the reported "desecration" of Khomeini's picture as a pretext for measures to uproot the reform movement. Some moderate websites suggested Mousavi may be arrested.   Continued...

<p>EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Masked Iranian students, supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, hold pictures of the Islamic revolution's father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during a rally in central Tehran December 13, 2009. REUTERS/via Your View</p>