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One year on, the anti-Ahmadinejad opposition has fizzled

Saturday marks one year since the disputed re-election of Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday, whose return to power sparked widespread protests followed by a brutal crackdown that seems to have surpressed the opposition.


AFP - Opposition leaders issued fresh calls for freedom on Saturday, accusing Iran's rulers of robbing liberty, jailing people and banning the media, as the nation marked the anniversary of last year's disputed presidential election.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi called off plans to stage new demonstrations against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over safety concerns, but vowed that their agitation against his re-election will continue.

Late on Friday, Mousavi said Iran's rulers had distanced themselves from the goals of the 1979 Islamic revolution and the constitution and were "shutting peoples' mouths, banning the media, holding elections as we saw last year and filling the prisons" with those who opposed them.

The security forces used deadly force to quell the massive demonstrations that erupted after Ahmadinejad returned to power in what the opposition had charged was a massively rigged poll.

Protests have not now been held for months, but Tehran's governor general warned against any attempts to demonstrate on Saturday.

"Any illegal move to disrupt public order and trouble people will not be tolerated and will be dealt with," Morteza Tamaddon was quoted as saying on Friday by the state news agency IRNA.

By noon (0730 GMT), there were no reports of protests, but late Friday people were shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) -- an opposition mantra -- from rooftops in several areas of Tehran.

The election bitterly divided Iran's political elite and dragged supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who openly backs the president, into the crisis.

A look back at the post-election protests of 2009
A look back at the post-election protests of 2009

He accused the West of masterminding the protests in a bid to topple the Islamic regime.

But former premier Mousavi and ex-parliament speaker Karroubi, who were close to Iran's revolutionary father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, brush aside such allegations.

For them, the opposition "Green Movement" is a grassroots initiative pursuing the aspirations of the revolution, including free elections, freedom of expression and respect for human rights.

Mousavi urged that the opposition movement be kept "alive as they (rulers) will be afraid of this very thing."

Timeline of the post-election crackdown
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He said demonstrations need not be the only way to protest and that the opposition must spread its message through "real and virtual social networks."

"We should... help expand websites... as films shot on cellphones... are our best instruments. They act like an army," he said on Sahamnews, Karroubi's website.

Last year's uprising was symbolised by a mobile phone video of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death on a Tehran street during a protest posted on the Internet.

US President Barack Obama, whose country has had no diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic for three decades, noted her death on Thursday as he urged the world to support the Iranian people in their fight for "freedom."

Karroubi said "what counts is the vote of the people and that there are free elections."

He said currently the outcome of polls was being decided by the electoral watchdog the Guardians Council. "Is this a republic?", he questioned.

Dozens of people were reportedly killed in in running street battles between security forces and protesters in Tehran and other cities after the election.

The regime crushed the protests, rounding up politicians and journalists close to Mousavi and Karroubi and unleashing the feared Basij Islamic militia on those who dared to demonstrate.

In its 2099 annual report, Amnesty International charged that "compelling evidence emerged that a number of detainees, both women and men, had been raped and otherwise tortured in detention."

The authorities reacted furiously to the accusations of rape first made by Karroubi. But they were forced to admit abuses at Tehran's notorious Kahrizak detention centre, which was closed after at least three protesters died of injuries there.

Iran has also sentenced 10 protesters to death and hanged seven people on security charges unrelated to the election -- but seen as a warning to opposition groups.


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