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Mousavi Faces Prison Threat

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Kim Sengupta | The Independent

Iran's embattled opposition leader, Mirhossein Mousavi, faces a new threat after the Basiji militia accused him of "offences against the state" and "disturbing the nation's security", charges which carry a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment.

The militia, which played a key role in the brutal suppression of street protests, has become known as the "enforcers" of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and are unlikely to have made the allegations against Mr Mousavi without receiving his authorisation to do so.

The Basiji high command wrote to the chief prosecutor asking him to take action over Mr Mousavi. It claimed that "evidence" would follow which showed his culpability in the disturbances over the disputed elections.

Mr Mousavi broke a week-long silence yesterday to denounce the election result as a "coup". "A majority of the people - including me - do not accept its political legitimacy," he said of the government, adding: "There's a danger ahead. A ruling system which relied on people's trust for 30 years cannot replace this trust with security forces overnight."

He was joined by Mehdi Karoubi, another candidate, and the reformist ex-president Mohammed Khatami in making statements which bring them into further conflict with Ayatollah Khamenei who has upheld the result and declared that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the winner.

The men said that it was their "historic responsibility to continue our protests and not to abandon our efforts to preserve the nation's rights".

Mr Mousavi asked for the release of the "children of the revolution" who had been taken away by the police and the Basiji. Earlier, state television said that all but one of nine Iranians who worked for the British embassy in Tehran had been released.

The remaining detainee it said, "had a remarkable role during the recent unrest in managing it behind the scenes". Another employee had been a "main element behind the riots" but had been freed because she had diplomatic immunity, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

The Foreign Office confirmed two staff had been released. "We are also seeking confirmation following Iranian reports that a further member of staff has been released today," it said in a statement. The top priority was ensuring the release of all staff and it was continuing "intensive discussions with the Iranian authorities and our international partners to resolve this issue".

Gordon Brown, who condemned Iran over the arrest of the embassy staff, expressed "deep disappointment" at the conduct of the Iranian regime.

"This action is unjustified and it is unacceptable and some people in Iran are trying to seek to use Britain as an explanation for the legitimate Iranian voices calling for greater openness and democracy," he said.

The release of more embassy employees will alleviate immediate tension but longer term problems between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear ambitions are certain to deepen.

Iran said yesterday that it regarded the EU as "disqualified" from talks on the country's nuclear programme. Major-General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said that until the EU apologised for the "huge mistake" it made supporting the dissidents in Iran, its member states would no longer be allowed to participate in negotiations.

The EU has discussed taking action against Iran but there has been little enthusiasm for joint action from some members. Germany and Italy, which have close trading links with Iran, are particularly reluctant.

On the day his government assumed the EU presidency, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he hoped Iran's leaders "will make the right choice" in avoiding confrontation with the international community. He announced no sanctions against Iran after talks with the European Commission. Mr Reinfeldt said Europe and others must take care not to become "an excuse for the use of violence or use of repression inside Iran".

Persepolis the sequel - Iran uprising depicted in updated cartoon

Persepolis, the celebrated animated film which depicted an Iranian girl coming of age during the Islamic revolution, has been updated by two Iranian exiles, Sina and Payman, to take account of last month's protests.

The original film won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year, and the revised version has the blessing of the publishers of Marjane Satrapi's original cartoon story. The two exiles have launched a website, Spread Persepolis, to promote their project.

Related article: Adrian Hamilton: How can Iranians mend their broken Islamic Republic?

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