Iranian opposition leader’s home attacked in apparent attempt to keep him from key rally

By Nasser Karimi, AP
Friday, September 3, 2010

Iranian opposition leader’s home attacked

TEHRAN, Iran — Pro-government militiamen attacked the home of an Iranian opposition leader with homemade bombs and beat one of his bodyguards unconscious, an opposition website reported, in an apparent attempt to keep him from attending a key rally on Friday.

Mahdi Karroubi’s guards had to fire gunshots in the air to clear crowds that broke down the door of his home on Thursday night after days of gatherings outside, said the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran’s pro-reform movement.

The report said the attackers were members of the plainclothes Basij militia, which led the crackdown on protests that swept the country in response to allegations of fraud in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 2009 re-election. Karroubi was one of the pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad.

The brazen assault on Karroubi’s doorstep suggests the Basij and other government security forces have increasingly turned their attention to pinpoint intimidation of opposition leaders after crackdowns derailed street protests.

Karroubi has remained the most public dissenter — with his car being the target of pro-government mobs several times. But authorities also have directed pressure on Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and former President Mohammad Khatami.

The opposition has not held any street demonstrations since February and canceled plans for a rally on the anniversary of the election.

Crowds also encircled Karroubi’s residence for several hours Friday as Iranians filled Tehran’s streets for the annual state-sponsored rally known as Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day.

The government uses the occasion as an anti-Israel outpouring and to show its support for the Palestinians. But last year, Karroubi and other opposition leaders marked the day by gathering tens of thousands of their own supporters into the streets, and violent clashes broke out with security forces.

Crowds of hard-line protesters have gathered at the gate of Karroubi’s home for several days, apparently because they believed he would try to attend the rally again this year, though none of the opposition leaders has called for demonstrations.

Karroubi’s son, Hossein, told The Associated Press Friday that dozens of hard-liners had targeted the leader’s home for several hours on Friday but they later dispersed.

President Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, addressed the Tehran rally, saying Israel and its supporters are too weak to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. No violence was reported at the event. Israel, the United States and other nations believe Iran intends to develop atomic weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear power program. Iran denies that, saying its nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes.

The president also dismissed the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks held in Washington this week, saying “the fate of Palestine will be decided in Palestine and through resistance and not in Washington.” Iran supports the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Gatherings for Quds Day were also held in other cities around the country.

Karroubi, a cleric, and Mousavi were the two pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad in 2009. Mousavi claims he won the election but that it was stolen from him through massive fraud.

On Friday, Mousavi condemned the attack on Karroubi’s home, saying it proved the government’s “enmity against Israel is an excuse” for attacking opposition figures. “Karroubi and figures like him and other freedom-seekers are the real enemies of authoritarians.”

Yasser Khomeini, a grandson of the Islamic Republic’s founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, also visited Karroubi at his home to express concern about the attack, according to Sahamnews.

On Thursday, Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia told the semi-official Fars news agency that police forces would be deployed in several parts of Tehran to maintain security during the rallies. There were no reports Friday of any opposition gatherings.

Since the vote, authorities have detained thousands and tried scores on charges of fomenting postelection unrest. More than 80 of them were sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years. Ten were sentenced to death, and their cases are being appealed.

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