VOA: Iranian lawmakers are demanding that opposition leaders face the death penalty for organizing anti-government rallies in several Iranian cities on Monday.
The conservative lawmakers said Tuesday opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi should be tried for sedition, an offense punishable by death. The two reformists had called Monday’s rallies in Tehran and elsewhere to show solidarity with recent Arab uprisings against authoritarian governments.
Mousavi’s website says it has “unconfirmed reports” that security forces arrested hundreds of people during the demonstrations, which drew thousands of activists to the streets of the capital in defiance of a government ban.
Iran’s deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan says authorities arrested protesters, but did not say how many. He also says a banned opposition group joined the rallies and opened fire at police, killing one bystander and wounding nine security personnel. There was no independent confirmation of the incident.
Witnesses say Iranian security forces fired tear gas and paintball guns to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom chanted slogans comparing Iran’s leaders to autocratic Arab rulers ousted by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani accused the United States and its allies of using Iran’s opposition movement as a tool to incite unrest.
Activists who marched in Tehran Monday also chanted “death to the dictator” – a slogan used by reformists who protested the re-election of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a disputed 2009 vote. By late Monday, similar chants echoed from Tehran rooftops, as they did during the unrest two years ago.
Iranian security forces prevented Mousavi and Karroubi from joining the rallies by surrounding their homes in the capital. The two men also led the 2009 protests after losing to Mr. Ahmadinejad in a vote they said was rigged, a charge the government denies.
Iran’s opposition says anti-government activists also marched in other cities Monday, including Isfahan, Shiraz and Kermanshah.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Iranian demonstrators as courageous and called on the government to follow Egypt’s example by opening up its political system. British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Iran to exercise restraint and allow people to express their views freely.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia as an Islamic awakening, akin to the 1979 revolution that ousted Iran’s U.S.-backed shah. But, authorities warned the opposition against organizing rallies in support of those revolts, fearing that such gatherings would turn into anti-government protests.