Pro-reform clerics in Iran stepped up criticism of the authorities on Sunday after more than a week of unprecedented popular defiance against the leadership of the Islamic Republic, Reuters reported.
But in an indication of their determination to crack down hard on demonstrations which culminated in the death of at least 10 people on Saturday, authorities dismissed the protesters as "terrorists" and rioters. They also detained the daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during an opposition rally in Tehran on Saturday, according to state media. A disputed June 12 election which returned to power hardline anti-Western President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sparked the most violent unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which ousted the U.S.-backed shah. As authorities fulminated against protesters backing defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, moderate former president Mohammad Khatami signalled increased opposition among pro-reform clerics to Iran's conservative leadership. "Preventing people from expressing their demands through civil ways will have dangerous consequences," Khatami, a Mousavi ally, said in a statement, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. His comment, implying criticism of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has backed a ban on protests and defended the outcome of the election, found an echo with Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior dissident cleric. "Resisting people's demand is religiously prohibited," said Montazeri, an architect of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution who fell out with the present leadership and has been under house arrest for some years. In a statement on his website, Montazeri called for three days of national mourning for those killed.