Iran's opposition calls crackdown a near-coup

The Associated PressJuly 2, 2009 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media.

In fresh displays of defiance, Iran's opposition leader told supporters Wednesday "it's not yet too late" to push for their rights, and he joined a reformist ex-president in condemning the regime for a post-election crackdown both said was tantamount to a coup.

Iran's standoff with the West escalated as the European Union considered pulling out all 27 of its ambassadors in retaliation for the recent detentions of several local employees of the British Embassy in Tehran, despite Iranian claims that all but one had been released.

Embattled opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said he considered Iran's cleric-led government illegitimate, and he demanded that it release all political prisoners and institute electoral reforms and press freedoms. Former President Mohammad Khatami, meanwhile, lashed out at what he termed "a poisonous security situation" in the wake of violent street protests.

In boldly worded statements posted on their Web sites, Khatami accused Iran's leadership of a "velvet coup against the people and democracy," and Mousavi said the government's crackdown on demonstrators was "tantamount to a coup."

Wednesday's confrontations with the regime came as Iran's feared Basij militia accused Mousavi of undermining national security and asked a prosecutor to investigate his role in the protests.

Mousavi -- who contends the election June 12 was marred by widespread fraud and insists he was robbed of victory -- said he was troubled by "the bitter, widespread distrust of the people toward the declared election results and the government that caused it."

"It's not yet too late," said Mousavi, who had slipped from public view in recent days. "It's our historic responsibility to continue our complaint and make efforts not to give up the rights of the people."

Mousavi condemned alleged attacks by security forces on college dormitories, and he called for a return to a more "honest" political environment.

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