IRAN: Hard-line cleric likens protesters to defiant 'Jews,' urges 'quick executions'
A high-ranking cleric close to both supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to give religious sanction to the killing of opposition supporters in a fiery Friday prayer sermon.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the same hard-line body of jurists and clerics that ratified Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 reelection, today likened the opposition to Jewish tribes who defied the prophet Mohammad.
"The prophet Muhammad signed non-aggression pacts with three Jewish tribes," he told government supporters gathered at Tehran University for Friday prayers. "The Jews failed to meet their commitments, and God ordered their massacre."
The octogenarian cleric added that Imam Ali, Mohammad's cousin and son-in-law, "ordered 70 unfaithful Jews murdered" despite his reputation as a kind and compassionate man.
"When it comes to suppressing the enemy, divine compassion and leniency have no meaning," he said.
Iran's hard-line government, dominated by extremist clergy and the Revolutionary Guard, fears the rekindling of widespread protests coinciding with the Feb. 11 anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In his Friday prayer sermon Jannati urged judiciary officials to deal harshly with protesters already in custody and praised them for the "quick execution" of two prisoners Thursday
"The judiciary is tasked with dealing with the detained rioters," the bespectacled, white-turbaned cleric said. "I know you well, judiciary officials! You came forward sincerely and accepted this responsibility. You are revolutionary and committed to the supreme leader. For God's sake, stand firm as you already did with your quick execution of these two convicts."
He added, "God ordered the prophet Muhammad to brutally slay hypocrites and ill-intentioned people who stuck to their convictions. Koran insistently orders such deaths. May God not forgive anyone showing leniency toward the corrupt on Earth."
Jannati's rhetoric resembles that of the early years following the revolution, when hard-liners put thousands of government opponents to death. The difference now is that such executions are met immediately by acts of defiance.
For example, after 20-year-old Arash Rahmanipour was put to death Thursday, both his father and lawyer, over the media, began denouncing the execution as unjust.
In an extraordinary interview with English-language Al Jazeera International (throughout the clip above), Rahmanipour's father said he refused to accept condolences over his son's death, only congratulations, as his son had died a martyr for the cause of Iranian democracy, according to reporter Dorsa Jabbari.
Indeed, despite his gory rhetoric and bravado, Jannati betrayed the government's immense fears and insecurities before an opposition movement it has failed to stamp out after nearly eight months.
"Any time we show laxness we will suffer blows," he said. "We will face a worse future if we show weakness today."
Photo: Ayatollah Ali Jannati. Credit: AFP.
Video: Al Jazeera English report. Credit: YouTube