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Iran: Opposition gears up for 10-day showdown, possible Mousavi arrest

Pro-government supporters are calling for the arrest and execution of Mousavi as Iran heads into a 10-day religious holiday. But the opposition is optimistic that they have ample opportunities to promote a cause they say is growing.

A worshiper holds a picture of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi during a rally against opposition supporters who insulted the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, after prayers in Tehran, Friday.

Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

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Pro-government demonstrators in Iran launched a 10-day religious mourning period on Friday with nationwide rallies and calls for the execution of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Pressure has been building from Iranian judicial authorities in recent days to arrest Moussavi and other top reform figures, who have led protests against presidential election last June they say were fraudulent.

“Mousavi, this is our last warning. The sedition leaders should be executed,” people chanted in Tehran, according to Reuters.

But the opposition is nevertheless optimistic heading into the holy month of Moharram, which peaks with commemoration of the death in 680 AD of one of the most revered Shiite saints, Imam Hossein. The coming 10 days of mourning are heavily infused with religious symbolism, and offer ample opportunities for the opposition to promote their cause – a cause that they say has been steadily drawing a broader base of support.

“Inside Iran, the opposition are much more hopeful than we are outside Iran, because they witness the development and the progress,” says Ebrahim Mehtari, a 27-year-old Iranian opposition activist and software engineer who fled to Turkey after being arrested twice. He has since kept in close touch with opposition figures.

Antigovernment protesters made no attempt to hijack official rallies on Friday, as they have done with other regime-sanctioned events in recent months, resulting in clashes. Opposition websites told their people to keep away from the heavily policed events on Friday, and instead have plans to take advantage of street marches and ritual associated with the mourning period to make their political point.


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