June 26, 2009 / 10:18 AM / 10 years ago

Cleric calls for punishment of Iran "rioters"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A hardline Iranian cleric urged the judiciary on Friday to punish the leading “rioters” in post-election violence without showing any mercy.

“I want the judiciary to ... punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson,” Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran university.

Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, said judges should charge the leading “rioters” as “mohareb,” or the one who wages war against God.

“Based on Islamic law, whoever confronts the Islamic state ... should be convicted as mohareb,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state media.

“They should be punished ruthlessly and savagely. “Under Iran’s Islamic law, punishment for people convicted as mohareb is execution.

Iranian authorities have accused moderate defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi of being responsible for the bloodshed.

Iran’s top legislative body has already rejected a call by Mousavi, declared second in the election behind incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the vote to be annulled.

Some 20 people have been killed in the violence. Police and militia have largely succeeded in taking back control of the streets this week after the most widespread anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iranian state television said on Thursday eight members of basij militia were killed by “rioters” in the protests.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Robert Woodward

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