Iran's Supreme Leader warned government supporters against accusing opposition members of wrongdoing without proof, an indication that the Islamic government may be easing up on critics of the June presidential election.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, said while a suspect's own confession was admissible, his testimony or accusations could not be used against others not on trial for the unrest following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.
"We do not have the right to accuse without any proof," Khamenei said in a speech marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in which he urged the judiciary and security forces to pursue offenders within the bounds of the law. The speech was carried live on Iran's state radio and television.
"What a suspect says in court against a third party has no legitimate validity," Khamenei said.
Khamenei did not single out any individuals, but his remarks appeared to refer to testimony by some detainees who claim that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and other reformists supported opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the June 12 vote to weaken Khamenei.
He stressed that accusing others in the media without any proof would create a climate of suspicion.
Reformists claim that widespread fraud handed incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a win over Mousavi.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in protests after the results, sparking a harsh government crackdown in which hundreds were arrested or detained and dozens subsequently being brought to court in mass trials. Some opposition members say 72 died in the post-vote police crackdown, roughly double the government's official casualty figures.
Since July, the street protests have largely died down, giving way instead to rifts between the country's influential clerics, with hardliners accusing Mousavi's reformist and moderate supporters of looking to destabilize the government and calling, in some cases, for their arrest.
Since the election, Khamenei has at times signaled that the government may ease up on the critics. His speech on the start of the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday appeared to be another push to tamp down tensions that have presented the country with its biggest internal political challenge since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran.
Rafsanjani — who has been absent from several recent official ceremonies, including a Friday prayer led by the supreme leader earlier in September — was seen sitting in the first row of worshippers during the prayer ceremony at which Khamenei spoke.
Khamenei's latest comments could signal a change in the direction of the ongoing court cases against protesters.
Over the past months, state-owned television,news agencies and newspapers reported on five court sessions in which some detainees blamed opposition figures and their supporters of fomenting the postelection unrest. Among those blamed was Rafsanjani's son.
In one court hearing in August, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a detainee who was a former vice president in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was quoted as saying that Rafsanjani backed Mousavi "to take revenge" on Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani in the 2005 election, and has the solid backing of Khamenei.
Khamenei praised Iranians for their participation in nationwide anti-Israeli rally on Friday, but steered clear of any mention of a counter-protest held by the opposition the same day. It was the opposition's first such anti-government demonstration in two months.
Tehran Police chief, Gen. Azizollah Rajabzadeh told the semiofficial ISNA news agency on Sunday that authorities detained some 35 protesters after they set several motorbikes and public trash bins on fire during the Friday event.
Khamenei also reiterated Iran's traditional hostile stance against Israel, calling it a "deadly cancer" which works for the invading hands of the world's "arrogant powers."Reuse content