Iran plagued with 'despotism'
Published Date: March 17, 2010 

TEHRAN: A day after his apartment block was besieged by hardliners calling for 
his prosecution, defiant Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi lashed out at 
the government, saying it was "plagued with despotism", his website reported 
yesterday. The cleric, who continues to question the legitimacy of President 
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, said it was still difficult for him to 
understand how the hardliner won the poll last year given his government's 
track record.

Unfortunately, the (Islamic) republic has been plagued with despotism and 
elections have become meaningless. It has become only a term," Karroubi told 
visitors from the central province of Isfahan, according to his website "How can one believe that a president with so many objections 
against him such as inflation, unemployment... gets more votes than he got in 
his first election?

Ahmadinejad has been accused of stoking inflation with populist policies that 
have involved pumping large sums of money into the economy. Karroubi again 
insisted that Ahmadinejad's re-election was "not due to the popular vote which 
is why we saw an explosion of people" on the streets after the official results 
were announced. In the immediate aftermath of the declaration of the results of 
the June 12 poll, hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured onto 
the streets to reject Ahmadinejad's re-election.

Karroubi's remarks came two days after hardliners reportedly gathered outside 
his Tehran home, calling for him to be put to death. His wife, Fatemeh, charged 
that a group of "thugs" paid by "corrupt" government officials had vandalized 
the apartment block where the family lives. Iran's Fars news agency described 
the small but vocal crowd which gathered outside the flats as "students and 
families of martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq war. Pictures carried by the 
pro-government Borna news agency showed the building defaced with red coloring, 
while slogans pronouncing "Death to Karroubi" were scribbled on the walls.

Karroubi and former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi have led a protest 
movement against Ahmadinejad since his June re-election, which they reject as 
massively rigged. Karroubi was attacked by hardliners during Iran's 
commemoration of the Islamic revolution of 1979 on February 11 and his car was 
shot at in January in the city of Qazvin, west of Tehran. The outspoken cleric, 
who with Mousavi stood against Ahmadinejad in the June vote, has infuriated 
hardliners by charging some post-election detainees had been raped in jail. 
Iranian authorities vehemently deny the allegations.

Western countries' fixation on Iran's disputed nuclear program is blinding them 
to human rights abuses, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said on Monday. 
"In recent years, the nuclear issue has become the only subject that gets 
talked about abroad but it's the tree that hides the forest, the forest being 
human rights violations in Iran," Ebadi told journalists in Paris. The West 
suspects Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge rejected 
by Tehran, which says its atomic program is purely for civilian energy purposes.

Iran holds two sad records, that for the number of imprisoned journalists and 
that for the number of minors executed," the Iranian human rights campaigner 
told a press conference to mark the release of a book by her in France. Girls 
can be held criminally responsible from the age of nine in the country and boys 
from the age of 15, she said. Ebadi, who has lived in exile in London for the 
last six months, said that Iran's protest movement was made up of different 
political persuasions but "the common denominator is democracy and respect for 
human rights." She said that she would not hesitate to return to Iran if needed 
but that she currently felt "more useful" abroad.- Agencies


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