Iranians still breathing towards freedom

Despite all the obstacles, dissent in the Islamic Republic powers on:

Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi said yesterday that the reform movement would not be cowed by the hardline government’s harsh methods as riot police prevented a demonstration by moderates taking place.

Mr Mousavi’s remarks preceded a scheduled gathering by moderates to commemorate the killing of Dariush Forouhar and his wife, who headed the illegal but tolerated Iran Nation Party. They were stabbed to death by “rogue” agents in 1998.

Iran’s security forces have warned the opposition not to take part in “street riots”, trying to avoid a revival of mass protests which erupted in June after Iran’s presidential vote; the biggest unrest in Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

A witness said dozens of riot police surrounded the area where the mourning ceremony was held to prevent it turning into an opposition rally. “They are dispersing people. The police are not allowing anyone to stop in the area. The police and security forces are carrying batons,” said the witness, who asked not to be named.

Mr Mousavi said the reform movement would continue despite the government’s pressure to uproot it. “The government should not intimidate people to change their path … this movement will continue and we are ready to pay any price,” Mr Mousavi was quoted as saying by his Kaleme website.

A key figure, former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi – I met this blogger in Tehran in 2007 and he has had severe pressure since the disputed June elections – faces continued troubles:

Thousands were arrested for fomenting unrest. Most have been freed, but Iran’s judiciary has fast-tracked sentencing for dozens of reformers, including former senior officials, lawyers, students and activists still in jail. So far five have been sentenced to death and another 81 have received jail terms of up to 15 years.

The most senior of those, moderate cleric and former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi was sentenced to six years in jail, then freed on a bail of $700,000 (…£425,000) yesterday. He has 20 days to appeal the sentence.

“He was sentenced to jail for acting against national security and propaganda against the system. I have appealed against his sentence,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Mr Abtahi’s lawyer, Hossein Simai,as saying.