Saturday, July 4, 2009

Iran: Elite Clerical Group Defys Regime

UPDATE 11:50GMT 5th July: The authenticity of the NYT report below, and the Iranian association it mentioned has been investigated by members of the Anonymous Iran forum. Their investigation casts serious doubt on the validity of the NYT report.

Clerical opposition to the Iranian coup regime is hardening. A statement [English] by the Association of Researchers and Teachers at the religious center in the city of Qum, on Saturday called the presidential election and the new government illegitimate.

The New York Times reports:
“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami “foreign agents,” saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

Since the election, the bulk of the clerical establishment in the holy city of Qum, an important religious and political center of power, has remained largely silent, leaving many to wonder when, or if, the nation’s most senior religious leaders would jump into the controversy that has posed the most significant challenge to the country’s leadership since the Islamic Revolution.

With its statement Saturday, the association of clerics — formed under the leadership of the revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — came down squarely on the side of the reform movement.

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