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Iran Top Judge Rejects 'Political' Hanging Pressure

Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani

Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's top judge says he would not succumb to political pressure from hard-liners to carry out more executions against antigovernment protesters, saying any such decision would be based on the law.

Iran hanged two people last week in connection with unrest that erupted after last year's disputed June presidential vote. The hangings were condemned by human rights groups and the West, which Iran accuses of backing the opposition.

"These demands [by hard-liners] are political in nature and are against the law and Shari'a," Sadeq Larijani was quoted as saying on the judiciary's official website Dadsara.

Some hard-liners, including an influential cleric, have urged the judiciary to execute more opposition supporters to end the demonstrations which continued on-and-off despite a government crackdown and a wave of arrests.

Larijani, however, did not rule out further executions against those who "harm the Islamic establishment."

"In reviewing detainees' cases, we will only consider the law and Islamic Shari'a law [which Iran implements since its 1979 Islamic revolution]."

The two were accused of being part of an anti-revolutionary group who had planned to plant bombs and assassinate officials to create tension in Iran on the day of the election and afterwards. Death sentences of the other nine are at appeal stage.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who also contested the vote, condemned the hangings, calling on their supporters to attend a rally on February 11, when the country marks the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.

Stark Warning

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Iranians would "disappoint the enemies completely on the anniversary day," state television reported today.

Hard-liners have warned that they will not tolerate any more antigovernment protests after the bloody demonstrations during the Shi'ite ritual of Ashura on December 27, when eight protesters were killed and officials said over 1,000 were arrested.

The trial of 16 people arrested on Ashura day began on Saturday. Iran's interior minister warned opposition activists on January 5 of risking execution as "enemies of God" if they continued demonstrations.

Despite threats, the opposition has shown no sign of retreating seven months after the vote, which it says was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's reelection. Authorities deny it.

Opposition websites have also been inviting people to stage fresh antigovernment rallies on February 11, when confrontations are expected to intensify.

Larijani, echoing other hard-liners, also warned the opposition over national security offenses.

"The judiciary will not compromise with those who are 'mohareb' [enemies of God], trying to harm our national security. We will strongly confront them," Larijani said.