Hardline Iranian lawmakers called on Tuesday for the country’s opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death, a day after clashes between opposition protesters and security forces left two people dead and dozens injured.
Tens of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally Monday in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years in power. The demonstration was the first major show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition after canceling planned rallies for the past year when authorities refused permission.
In Washington, President Barack Obama criticized the Iranian government for its harsh treatment of protesters and noted the irony of its support for Egypt’s uprisings while repressing demonstrators at home.
At an open session of parliament Tuesday, pro-government legislators demanded opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami face be held responsible for the protests.
Pumping their fists in the air, the lawmakers chanted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.”
“We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders, 221 lawmakers said in a statement.
Hardliners have long sought to put senior opposition figures on trial, but the calls for the death penalty signaled an escalation in their demands.
Parliament formed a special committee to review the case and decide in coming days about how the government should deal with the opposition leaders.
Iran has already tried scores of opposition figures and activists on charges of fomenting the mass protests following the country’s disputed 2009 presidential elections that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term. More than 80 of people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years.
The opposition says scores were killed in the massive crackdown on those protests, while the government says only around 30 people died.
At one point their demands descended into chanting against Karroubi, a former Parliament speaker, and Moussavi. Both men ran against Ahmadinejad in the last election. “Moussavi, Karroubi should be hanged!’’ the members shouted in unison.
The protesters, by chanting against the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were demanding that the entire government system should go.
Of the 290 Parliament members, 222 signed a statement yesterday demanding the government prosecute Moussavi and Karroubi, according to IRNA, the state-run news agency. It was at least the third time that the two men have been threatened publicly with prosecution, but the government has not pursued trials, perhaps because such an action could fuel new demonstrations.
“They would like to provide an atmosphere for the government to take harder action against the opposition leaders,’’ said Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, an exiled former member of Parliament now at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “But I do not think they could do anything like execute the leaders — even if they arrested them it would motivate a new round of the uprising.’’