PARIS (Reuters) - Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi, under investigation over his claims that protesters were raped in jail, has accused hardliners of trying to silence him and said prospects for reconciliation were poor.
Iran’s judiciary launched a legal case against the pro-reform cleric after he said some people held in protests following a disputed election in June were abused and raped, but Karoubi said in a newspaper interview he had done nothing wrong.
Asked in Monday’s edition of French paper Le Monde whether national reconciliation was still imaginable, he said: “The option is good and reasonable, and wise people on both sides are not against it.”
But he said a lot of groundwork needed to be done before such a rapprochement would be possible.
“At the moment, the conditions are not there: certain people don’t want to yield at all, and hold on to everything...We have to work on restoring confidence between the people and authorities. Some fundamentalists, the more moderate ones, share this view but unfortunately they don’t have a lot of power.”
Monday, Iranian police in Tehran again clashed with opposition demonstrators seeking to renew their challenge to the government.
Karoubi, who came fourth in the June poll, has said the ballot was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Officials reject the charge.
Some of Karoubi’s allies and advisers have been arrested, but he said he did not fear being investigated for his statements about the alleged prison abuse.
“Fortunately, I know from people who have been freed that after my protest letters the situation improved,” he said, adding he had not heard of more sexual abuse.
He said he had handed the judiciary evidence to open an investigation into the abuse claims.
“The problem is that the hardliners have repeatedly tried to create a climate of hate to harm me, but their efforts are purely political, there is nothing legal in there,” he said.
Karoubi said the protests did not only involve students but had spread to all those who felt that “two basic principles of the regime, the Republic and Islam, have been turned on their head.”
The protests now reached through many layers of society from officials and clerics to shopkeepers, he said.
Reporting by Sophie Hardach; Editing by Samia Nakhoul
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