Mullahs Ascendant

Protests in Iran have died down as the regime’s violent tactics have allowed it to reassert control. In his sermon last night, the Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami called for execution of leading dissidents. The London Times reports:

A hardline cleric close to the Iranian regime demanded the execution of leading demonstrators yesterday as the opposition ended the week in disarray.

In a televised sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami called on the judiciary to “punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson”. He said that those leaders were backed by the United States and Israel. They should be treated as mohareb — people who wage war against God — and deserved execution.

In a clear warning to all other dissenters, he declared: “Anybody who fights against the Islamic system or the leader of Islamic society, fight him until complete destruction.”

The Ayatollah claimed that Neda Soltan, the woman shot during a demonstration last Saturday, had been killed by fellow protesters because “government forces do not shoot at a lady standing in a side street”.

Khatami’s lie is a testament to the outrage generated by the powerful video of the dying Soltan, which was seen around the world. More:

Regime operatives appeared to have sabotaged the main website through which Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated candidate, communicates with his supporters. The former Prime Minister has not appeared in public for nine days and his movements are said to have been curtailed by a large, unwanted security force.

The regime’s ubiquitous security groups now break up even the smallest gatherings before they can gain critical mass. Its agents have become adept at spreading misinformation about when and where protests are taking place, and intimidating Tehranis with telephone calls warning them not to join rooftop protests at night. They have also shut opposition newspapers.

The regime seems to be locking down its friends as well as its enemies, in an effort to prevent information from leaking out of Iran. The Fars News Agency is privately owned but is generally a propaganda arm of the Ahmadinejad government. Nevertheless, its site has been shut down since around the time the anti-government rallies began.

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