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Iranian Opposition Leader Slams Guardians Council

Pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karrubi
Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi has criticized the influential Guardians Council for "institutionalizing fraud" and offering a "double-standard interpretation" of the constitution, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The remarks came in a letter published on July 21 addressed to Guardians Council member Ayatollah Mohammad Momen. The letter was posted on the Sahamnews website, which is run by Karrubi's Etemad-e Melli party.

Karrubi said in the letter that the council has turned into an "instrument for securing and maintaining power for a particular political faction."

Paris-based journalist Seraj Mirdamadi told Radio Farda that the Guardians Council is the key obstacle to Iran's transition to democracy. He said on July 21 that the council has members who fundamentally oppose free elections.

The 12-member Guardians Council is the country's most powerful governmental body. All of its members -- six theologians appointed by Iran's supreme leader and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament -- are conservatives.

The council has the power to veto all legislation it deems inconsistent with the constitution or Islamic law.

It also has the power to vet candidates standing for election in Iran -- including for the presidency and parliament -- and to determine the ultimate validity of any election.

In his letter, Karrubi directly criticized the Guardians Council's conduct regarding recent elections. "One of the basic rights of the Iranian people is to elect and be elected," he wrote. Karrubi said this "right has been unfortunately ignored by this council."

Karrubi condemned the vetting of candidates performed by the Guardians Council, saying the council considers the "inquisition of the candidates' most personal beliefs as a part of its mission."

Karrubi said the Guardians Council should be held accountable not only for the "mass disqualification of candidates in elections," but also for "the way it has held elections."