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Hard-Line Iran Editor Calls For Musavi To Face Trial

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A newspaper editor seen as close to Iran's top authority has said defeated election candidate Mir Hossein Musavi and a former pro-reform president had committed "terrible crimes" which should be tried in court.

In a commentary published in his hard-line "Kayhan" daily, editor in chief Hossein Shariatmadari suggested that Musavi and his supporters in last month's disputed election had acted on the instructions of the United States, Iran's arch foe.

The June 12 poll stirred the most striking display of internal dissent in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and strained ties with the West. At least 20 people died in postelection violence last month.

The authorities have portrayed mass pro-Musavi protests, which erupted after official results showed President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had been reelected by a landslide, as the work of local subversives and foreign powers.

"Documents and undeniable evidence show that this mission was directed from the outside," Shariatmadari, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote in a commentary.

"All they did and said was in line with the instructions announced by American officials in the past," he added.

He also singled out former President Mohammad Khatami, a leading reformist who backed Musavi in the election campaign.

"An open court, in front of the people's eyes, must deal with the all the terrible crimes and clear betrayal committed by the main elements behind the recent unrest, including Musavi and Khatami," Shariatmadari wrote.

Mounting Pressure

His comments were a clear sign of mounting hard-line pressure on Musavi and his allies, who say the election was rigged in favor of the anti-Western incumbent.

"There were some reasons why the United States, Israel, the European Union, all antirevolutionary groups...supported Musavi and his group and spent all their political and media forces to support this group," Shariatmadari wrote.

Another hard-line newspaper, "Javan," said 100 members of parliament had signed a letter to the judiciary calling for the leaders of "postelection riots" to face trial.

The authorities reject opposition charges of vote rigging and say the vote was Iran's "healthiest" since the revolution.

They blame Musavi, a moderate former prime minister, for the bloodshed after the election. Musavi rejects the charge.

Although hard-liners have regained the initiative since security forces quelled the protests, Musavi and another losing candidate, pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karrubi, have not yielded.

They again denounced the election result on July 1 and said Ahmadinejad's next cabinet would be illegitimate.