Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran's most senior cleric says election was bogus

Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, staged...

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, staged competing rallies Tuesday as the country's most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad's re-election was rigged.

"No one in their right mind can believe" the official results from Friday's contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the purported landslide victory by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi's charges of fraud and the massive protests staged by his supporters "in the worst way possible."

"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," the country's senior-most cleric declared on his official Web site. "I ask the police and army personals [personnel] not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."

Montazeri's pointed comments provided fresh evidence that a serious rift has opened at the top of Iran's powerful religious hierarchy.

For the third time in as many days, Tehran was the scene of huge rallies. Ahmadinejad supporters gathered at Vali Asr Square, pre-empting plans by Mousavi's supporters to rally there. State television provided full coverage of the pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration, including aerial images of a crowd that appeared to number in the thousands. Ahmadinejad was in Moscow, where he said nothing about Iran's problems.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters converged later in affluent northern Tehran, where the opposition candidate has strong support. A witness told The Associated Press that the rally stretched more than a mile along Vali Asr Avenue, from Vanak Square to the headquarters of Iranian state television.

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