Berlin says it will support Iran’s opposition

2009/12/29

Published in “Der Spiegel” on December 29 2009
Source (German): http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,669476,00.html
Original headline: “Ahmadinejad attacks opposition”

Wild threats against the West, violence against protesters: The leadership in Tehran sharply responds to the protests of the opposition, which, according to the Iranian government, were controlled by “Zionists and Americans”. Raids and arrests are obviously an attempt to intimidate the critics [of the government].

Iran's president Ahmadinejad (photo: dpa, archive)

Tehran – More than 300 were arrested, numerous were killed or injured. For all the world to see, the opposition in Iran is revolting against the leadership of the country. Now, for the first time, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke out, harshly criticizing his opponents. The protests were controlled by “Zionists and Americans”, he said, adding that they had written the “script” for the demonstrations and were their “only audience”. This was reported by official news agency IRNA.

This “spectacle” makes him “sick in the stomach”, said Ahmadinejad. Those who had planned it as well as those who had participated in it were “mistaken”. Foreign Minster Manouchehr Mottaki had previously warned the West to not support a “vandalizing minority” that does not respect democratic elections. A spokesman of Mottaki especially bashed the USA and Great Britain, saying that they were “miscalculating” by siding with the dissident protests. If the British government continues to spread “lies”, Tehran will give a harsh response. The British ambassador was summoned.

According to official information, eight people were killed in the bloody clashes between demonstrators and pro-government forces on Sunday. The bodies of five protesters – among them a nephew of opposition leader Hossein Moussavi – were initially not released for burial, according to an announcement of news agency IRNA. They are to be autopsied first. The authorities apparently want to prevent renewed protests on occasion of the burial.

Raids, arrests, threats of death penalty
Prominent members of parliament on Tuesday demanded that death penalty should be applied for protesters who disturbed the holy festival of Ashoura last weekend by violent actions. Deputy speaker of parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar announced that the delegates “within 24 hours” will provide a legal basis for the death penalty.

Scores of people were also arrested on Tuesday, among them the sister of Nobel Peace Price laureate Shirin Ebadi. The medical professor Noushin Ebadi was picked up on Monday evening at her home in Tehran by four Secret Service agents, and transferred to prison. According to reports of reformist websites, numerous journalists were arrested during the raids, including the chairman of the Iranian Journalists Association. Also, a member of Moussavi’s family has been detained. On Monday already some of his confidants were detained.

Obama and Merkel condemn violence against protesters
France demanded the release of innocent detainees. U.S. President Barack Obama had advocated for this on Monday, criticizing the violent repression of the opposition. The protesters were “attacked with the iron fist of brutality”, he said in Hawaii, where he is currently staying for vacation. The British Foreign Secretary Miliband called the reports on the bloody protests “disturbing”.

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday strongly criticized the violence against protesters. The federal government on Tuesday harshened their approach towards Tehran. Werner Hoyer, Minister of State at the Foreign Office said on Tuesday in Berlin that there was great concern about the current development, and [Germany] condemns the brutal crackdown of the Iranian security forces. He appealed to the Iranian government to prevent further escalation, adding that the country was obligated to guarantee the rights of its citizens, such as the freedom of speech.

At the same time, Berlin assured the dissidents of Germany’s support. “People who courageously stand up for this right have our sympathy and our support”, said Hoyer.

According to Hoyer, Germany togethter with its European partners is going to consult on possible joint responses. Isolated national actions will not be taken. He did not generally preclude the summoning of the Iranian ambassador in Berlin. The federal government would use all possible channels to make it clear for the leadership in Tehran what “we think of this issue”.

Pro-government protests
In the power struggle with the opposition, the Iranian government now appears to resort to street protests as well. Tens of thousands of people held a spontaneous demonstration in support of the government on Tuesday, reported the state-owned television. The demonstrators demanded punishment of the opposition leaders, because they had fueled the recent riots.
Due to limitations of media coverage, the turnout of those rallies could not be independently confirmed.

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