- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2009

TEHRAN | Iranian authorities announced a new Internet crackdown Saturday aimed at choking off a reform movement’s last real means of keeping its campaign alive, even as embattled opposition leaders accused the government of becoming more brutal than the shah’s regime.

Two of Iran’s top pro-reform figures said police used excessive force against anti-government protesters who took to the streets Nov. 4 on the sidelines of state-sanctioned rallies to mark the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, who lead the protest movement rejecting the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June re-election, said authorities wielding batons even struck women on their heads. They called such treatment an ugly act that was not even seen during Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s response to the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled him.

“I can’t understand why they should treat people like this,” Mr. Karroubi was quoted as saying by several opposition Web sites. “… I struggled against the Pahlavi regime for 15 years … but there were no such crackdowns.”

Such Web statements have been the mainstay of an opposition movement struggling to stay alive despite being brutally swept off the streets in the weeks after the June 12 election. Mr. Mousavi and his supporters contend that he was the rightful winner of the vote, but that Mr. Ahmadinejad was fraudulently declared the winner.

In a clear effort to silence the opposition’s Internet outlet, Iranian authorities announced they were deploying a special police unit to sweep Web sites for political material and prosecute those deemed to be spreading lies, Iranian media reported Saturday.

Most opposition Web sites are already banned, but activists have continued to set up new sites within days of the old ones being blocked.

The new 12-member police unit will report to the prosecutor’s office, signaling an intention to bring offenders to trial.

“Authorities know that the Internet is one of the few available channels for the opposition to make its voice heard. They want to silence opposition voices,” said reform-minded journalist Akbar Montajabi, who described the measure as the latest set of restrictions imposed on media in the country.

Police Col. Mehrdad Omidi, who heads the new Internet policing unit, said the new committee will go after “insults and the spreading of lies,” terms widely used by the judiciary to describe opposition activities.

Iran also pushed ahead Saturday with another key component in its battle with the opposition, sentencing a student activist, Abdollah Momeni, to eight years in prison, the pro-opposition Web site Mowjcamp reported.

More than 100 activists and some senior pro-reform figures have been on trial since August on charges of participating in rallies and plotting to overthrow the country’s clerical rulers.

In Saturday’s Web statement, Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi touched on an extremely sensitive point, likening the government to the shah’s regime.

Iran’s Islamic leadership has repeatedly denounced the U.S.-backed shah’s rule as dictatorial and brutal. In some cases, the shah’s forces opened fire on crowds of demonstrators, and many political prisoners said they suffered extensive torture in prisons.

Political activists say the treatment of detainees by the Islamist government is even harsher. Mr. Karroubi has even said he has received information that detained protesters - men and women - have been savagely raped by their jailers to the point of physical and mental damage.

The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed in the postelection meltdown. The government puts the number of confirmed dead at 30.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide