TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian hardliners pressed on Thursday for legal action against moderate leaders accused of inciting post-election turmoil that has dimmed Western hopes of engaging Tehran on its disputed nuclear program.
“Those who hold illegal rallies and gatherings should be legally pursued,” parliament member Mohammad Taghi Rahbar was quoted as saying by the hardline Javan newspaper.
It said he was among several lawmakers preparing to write to the judiciary complaining about defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi’s activities after the disputed June 12 election.
The student branch of the pro-government Basij militia, which helped police suppress street protests after the vote, has also urged the attorney-general to take Mousavi to court.
The authorities have blamed Mousavi, a moderate former prime minister, for last month’s violence, in which at least 20 people were killed. Mousavi, who says the poll was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rejects the charge.
The unrest has posed a dilemma for Western powers torn between sympathy for the protesters and a desire to keep alive chances for dialogue on what they suspect is an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran denies it is seeking to make bombs.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted next week’s Group of Eight summit to send a strong signal to Iran, without forfeiting possible talks on the nuclear issue.
G8 leaders will meet in Italy on July 8-10, a month after Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a vote his opponents have denounced as a fraud. Tehran has cracked down on protesters, jailing many and accusing the West of fomenting unrest.
“I hope the meeting sends a strong message of unity, a united message that the right to demonstrate and human rights cannot be separated and that they apply to Iran,” Merkel said.
“I strongly support President (Barack) Obama’s offer to Iran of direct talks. We will accompany this in a united way. We cannot drop the issue of a nuclear-armed Iran just because of the current situation. That would be completely wrong.”
Iranian officials deny the election was rigged, saying it was the nation’s “healthiest” since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The authorities have portrayed the unrest as the work of local subversives and foreign powers, especially Britain.
Two out of nine Iranian staffers at the British embassy who were detained on Sunday remain in custody.
“The leadership in Iran must know that if they choose a path of reason, then we want Iran to develop prosperously,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
“But if this is not the case, we will not shy away from stating our opinions and showing solidarity with those, including members of the British embassy, that have been put under pressure.”
Germany is one of six world powers which have offered Iran economic and other incentives if it stops enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for power stations, or if carried further, for nuclear weapons. Iran has refused to halt the work.
Iran’s top military commander on Wednesday said the European Union must apologize for its “interference” after the presidential election before any nuclear talks can resume. Mousavi and another losing candidate, pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi, again denounced the election result on Wednesday and said Ahmadinejad’s next cabinet would be illegitimate.
Despite their defiance, analysts say they have few practical options after Iran’s top legislative body on Monday certified results showing Ahmadinejad had won re-election by a landslide.
The clerical leadership is likely to ignore the reformers and keep backing Ahmadinejad, who enjoys the public support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top authority.
The semi-official Fars news agency said seven people linked to “anti-revolutionary” groups had been detained for taking part in “riots and unrest” in Tehran and the northwestern city of Qazvin.
Iran’s police chief said on Wednesday 1,032 people had been detained during the protests in Tehran, but most had been freed.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said on Tuesday reports from within Iran indicated that as many as 2,000 people, including opposition leaders, professors, journalists, students and protesters may be in detention across the country.
Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Dominic Evans