Iran protesters defy rally ban

Crowds pour into Tehran streets demonstrating against recent election results

Iran protesters defy rally ban

Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the country’s top election supervisory body to look into the complaints raised by former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has branded Friday’s election a vote-rigged “charade”.

“Mousavi we support you! We will die but retrieve our votes!” shouted the crowds of thousands who poured into central Tehran in defiance of an interior ministry ban.

Iran was facing a growing diplomatic backlash over its crackdown on opposition protests as world powers questioned the validity of the election that gave the combative Ahmadinejad another four years in power.

Mousavi, a moderate who lost by a wide margin to Ahmadinejad, is planning to attend the march, his website said, setting the stage for possible confrontations with security forces.

“No authorisation for a march or gathering has been issued and any kind of gathering or march is illegal,” an interior ministry spokesman said.

State television said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had told Mousavi to pursue his complaints against the most hotly-disputed election in the Islamic republic through legal and peaceful means, state television reported.

The moderate Mousavi lodged a formal appeal on Sunday for the cancellation of the results of an election that has sent rival protesters into the streets, highlighting deep divisions in Iran after three decades of Islamic rule.

“You should follow the matters peacefully,” the television quoted the supreme leader as telling Mousavi, who mounted a spirited campaign for the election that appeared to have huge support among Iran’s urban youth.

Khamenei said the 12-member Guardians Council had been advised to “precisely examine” Mousavi’s letter. A spokesman for the body said it would announce its decision in 10 days.

Monday’s opposition demonstration comes a day after Ahmadinejad himself addressed a victory rally of vast crowds of supporters in Tehran to defend the results, saying the passions aroused by the results were like a football match.

Probe into results

European governments complained about the tactics used and added their voices to US doubt over the election outcome, with the EU calling on Tehran to launch a probe. “The doubts that have been raised about the free and fair nature of the counting process are of major concern,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

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