Iran General NewsPressure rises on Iran leader

Pressure rises on Iran leader

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Wall Street Journal: Iran’s president came under new domestic pressure on two fronts with a rare, unified blow against him in parliament and the first significant opposition rally in months, a protest in response to the death of an activist in an assault by security forces Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal

By FARNAZ FASSIHI

Iran’s president came under new domestic pressure on two fronts with a rare, unified blow against him in parliament and the first significant opposition rally in months, a protest in response to the death of an activist in an assault by security forces Wednesday.

In parliament Wednesday, lawmakers voted to refer President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the judiciary to rule on whether his move last month to name himself oil minister, after dismantling the ministry and sacking the minister, was legal.

The events came as the opposition Green Movement tried to rally nationwide support for antigovernment protests on June 12, the anniversary of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009. That disputed vote sparked Iran’s largest outbreak of political unrest in decades.

About 1,000 protesters turned out for a rally Wednesday night after democracy activists said security forces, attacking the funeral of an opposition figure, killed his daughter.

The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, said the 56-year-old activist, Haleh Sahabi, died from shock and heat exhaustion, and wasn’t attacked.

The U.S. called on Iran to investigate her death. “If reports are accurate that government security forces contributed to her death, this would demonstrate a deplorable disregard for human dignity and respect on the part of the Iranian authorities,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Witnesses and family members said uniformed security forces and plainclothes Basij militia, the organization that led Iran’s violent crackdown on protesters in 2009, swarmed the funeral of Ms. Sahabi’s father, opposition figure Ezatollah Sahabi.

Ms. Sahabi, a prominent women’s-rights activist, had been serving a two-year prison sentence for attending opposition rallies in 2009 and was released from jail to see her father, a former revolutionary who later turned against the Islamic regime, after he suffered a stroke a few weeks ago.

Witnesses and family members said the funeral wasn’t a political gathering. People were praying and marching behind the dead body on the outskirts of northern Tehran when the security forces moved in, screaming and violently attacking the crowd. Some wore boxing gloves, witnesses said.

One militiaman approached Ms. Sahabi and tore up a picture of her father she was carrying, according to witnesses. When she protested, he punched her in the midsection and she fell to the ground. She suffered a punctured lung and cardiac arrest, and died before reaching the hospital, said a family member reached on the phone in Tehran.

Afterward, the Green Movement opposition called on its Facebook page for an antigovernment protest outside Ms. Sahabi’s home. Security forces dispersed them and made a number of arrests, witnesses said.

The potential of a revived protest movement is an added burden to the president as he faces what has been a prolonged power struggle with parliament.

Tensions between the president and the conservative political factions that dominate the legislature have been simmering in the past two months, after Mr. Ahmadinejad issued a series of decrees dismissing ministers and merging three ministries without parliamentary approval.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confronted the president and ordered him to reinstate the intelligence minister. Mr. Ahmadinejad refused, boycotting cabinet meetings and threatening to resign, but then conceded to Mr. Khamenei’s wish.

The dismissal of the oil minister was particularly controversial because of Iran’s concern about its international profile as a major oil producer and the current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The parliament’s energy committee issued a report, read aloud on Wednesday, saying Mr. Ahmadinejad was hurting Iran’s international standing.

“A caretaker or oil minister must chair OPEC, and if we continue with the current trend, Iran will certainly lose OPEC’s presidency,” said energy committee chairman Emad Hosseini, according to Iranian media.

On Wednesday, 165 lawmakers out of 198 voted in favor of referring the president to the judiciary; one voted against, according to official news media.

Such a vote would have required the approval of Mr. Khamenei. But analysts say it is unlikely that Mr. Khamenei, a supporter of the president after the 2009 election controversy, would force him to resign or approve his impeachment.

“By giving the parliament the green light to attack Ahmadinejad, Khamenei is clipping his wings and at the same time distancing himself from Ahmadinejad in the political battle,” said analyst Roozbeh Mirebrahimi.

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