Iran uprising fizzles out as Mousavi backtracks

Ahmadinejad close to sealing election / Cleric says protesters should be executed

A senior Iranian cleric yesterday called for protesters to be executed as "enemies of Allah", as authorities came one step closer to formally declaring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winner of the disputed election.

The demand that demonstrators "must be shown no mercy" came as the main opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi took a more conciliatory attitude towards authorities by saying he will seek official approval for future demonstrations – a significantly more emollient stance than 24 hours earlier, when he vowed to "neutralise this evil conspiracy" against the public. In addition his website was attacked by hackers, and is now blank.

The latest moves may signal the beginning of the end for the protests, which have swept Iran since the incumbent President Ahmadinejad claimed a landslide victory. The number of people attending marches has dwindled after demonstrators repeatedly came under attack from police and the Islamist Basiji militia, and almost 1,000 people were arrested.

Iran's Guardian Council yesterday seemed close to endorsing President Ahmadinejad as victor, in what it maintained was "one of the cleanest elections we have had".

Spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said allegations of fraud by the opposition had proved groundless. "After 10 days of examination we did not see any major irregularities," he said. "I can say with certainty that there was no fraud in the election." In his latest message Mr Mousavi urged supporters not to break the law, while maintaining that the struggle to have the polls annulled must continue. The opposition leader said he had been asked by the Interior Ministry to apply in person for rallies to be authorised, and to give a week's notice. He pointed out that while restrictions were imposed on his protests, supporters of President Ahmadinejad were able to hold marches "that were well publicised on state television, seeming to encourage participation, with their regularly advertised march routes."

The attitude of the hardliners meanwhile appears uncompromising. In a sermon at Tehran University, a venue believed to have been chosen deliberately because of the prominent role played by students in the protests, one Assembly of Experts member, Ahmad Khatami, said: "I want the judiciary to punish rioters without mercy, to teach everyone a lesson."

Mr Khatami's speech, which was broadcast nationwide, continued: "Based on Islamic law, whoever confronts the Islamic state should be convicted as mohareb [one who wages war against God] and punished ruthlessly and savagely. Under Islamic law punishment for those convicted as mohareb is execution."

He also claimed that Neda Agha Soltan, the icon of the opposition shot dead last Saturday, was killed by demonstrators. But Associated Press reported that a Basij militiaman shouted "I didn't want to kill her" after she died. Demonstrators stripped him of his identity card and took his photograph before letting him go.

The US, which has taken a harder line towards the regime in the past few days, has accused President Ahmadinejad of trying to deflect attention from popular discontent at home by blaming outsiders. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "President Ahmadinejad is among people in Iran who want to make this not a debate among Iranians in Iran but about the West and the United States."

Russia, which along with China, had maintained that the election result should be accepted, said it was nevertheless, worried by the scale of violence by authorities. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We count on all questions which have arisen in the context of the elections being resolved in accordance with democratic procedures."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss