By Jay Deshmukh
June 20, 2010
TEHRAN — Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi on Sunday vowed to continue fighting the presidential “vote scandal” which rocked Iran, a year to the day after the death of a young woman at a Tehran protest rally.
Karroubi’s latest salvo comes 12 months after a deadly demonstration in the capital against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to the killing of 10 people, including Neda Agha-Soltan.
A mobile phone video posted on the Internet showing the young woman bleeding to death in the street during the June 20, 2009 rally became the symbol of the uprising against Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
In an open letter to Iranians posted on his website, Karroubi attacked the authorities for jailing protesters and “filling cemeteries” with those killed in the post-election unrest.
“Your stolen votes and the right which was unjustly taken away is a scandal which will not be wiped out at all,” the cleric who has refused to accept Ahmadinejad’s re-election said to his supporters.
“I once again declare in all honesty that I will be committed to my pact with you until the end.”
Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured onto the streets of Tehran soon after last year’s presidential election result returned Ahmadinejad to office for a second term.
The opposition movement claims that the poll was massively rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour, and has continued to reject his government ever since.
Dozens of people were killed in the clashes between protesters and security forces, and thousands were jailed in a crackdown launched by the authorities to quell the demonstrations that rocked the pillars of the Islamic regime.
On Sunday Karroubi, a former parliament speaker who was defeated in the election, said the people viewed the result differently from Khamenei.
“The leader declared his view about the election, but we saw that the people, with all due respect to him, thought differently by claiming back the votes they had cast,” he said.
He was referring to a June 19, 2009 Tehran Friday prayers sermon by Khamenei in which he openly backed Ahmadinejad’s re-election and called for an end to street demonstrations.
Opposition supporters continued to protest for several months after Khamenei’s call.
Karroubi accused Khamenei and the authorities of using ideology to expand their powers beyond those allocated by the constitution.
Khamenei has proved to be a rock-solid advocate of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s ideology of the Velayat-e Faqih, the notion that religious authority is the supreme political authority in an Islamic republic.
“Why have they resorted to Velayat-e Faqih to undermine the constitution and the Islamic republic which depends on people’s votes?” Karroubi questioned.
“The authority and domain of Velayat-e Faqih has been expanded so much, it is unlikely that God could have granted so much authority to the prophets and Imams. I don’t even think God would have considered such a right for himself in dealing with his people.”
Iranian police last Monday reportedly helped Karroubi escape a day after hardline regime loyalists surrounded him at the home of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanaei, a senior cleric in the holy city of Qom who is an opposition sympathizer.
Opposition websites said that on the same day in Qom intelligence agents had closed the office of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once tipped to succeed Khomeini as supreme leader but later a strong supporter of the opposition movement.
Karroubi accused the authorities of “depriving people of their right to question by sending them to Kahrizak and filling cemeteries.”
During last year’s unrest several protesters were sent to Tehran’s Kahrizak detention centre, which was later closed by Khamenei after reports that inmates there were widely abused and official’s acknowledged that at least three protesters had died in custody.
Karroubi has also charged that several protesters — both female and male — were raped in custody, an allegation officials deny.