Khamenei endorses Ahmadinejad

Khamenei endorses Ahmadinejad

Inauguration on Wednesday; Irans opposition leaders stay away from event

Khamenei endorses Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

But several of his most prominent opponents, who have called his re-election fraudulent, stayed away from the event, news reports said.

The ceremony, conducted by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came one day after the state television broadcast a chilling segment of the mass trial in which two defendants —both prominent reform figures—said they had “changed” since being arrested. They also disputed widespread claims that their publicised confessions had been coerced through torture.

Ahmadinejad’s formal endorsement at a ceremony in Tehran on Monday was a pre-requisite to his inauguration on Wednesday.

Ayatollah Khamenei had already given public support to Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in elections on June 12 that opposition supporters say was rigged. The main legislative body in charge of elections, the Guardian Council, has also endorsed it as fair.

News reports said several leading opponents of Ahmadinejad stayed away from the ceremony on Monday, including the main reformist candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi and an opposition ally, Mehdi Karroubi.

Opposition leaders have also hinted that they will stay away from the inauguration later in the week.

Two former presidents who had criticised the election, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, also boycotted Monday’s event, news reports said.

But Press TV said leaders of “the three branches of government” attended the formal endorsement, including Mohsen Rezai, an unsuccessful conservative presidential candidate who had previously challenged the outcome of the elections.

At the mass trial on Sunday, a Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who is running the hearings, released a statement warning that anyone criticising them as illegitimate, as many opposition figures have done, would also be prosecuted.

The two steps reflected an intensified effort to intimidate Iran’s opposition movement before President Ahmadinejad’s inauguration.

The broadcast of part of the trial on Sunday was a deliberate provocation to opposition leaders, who had singled out the use of televised confessions as an especially appalling tactic.