Iran pardons dozens ahead of election anniversary
Guardian / Ian Black

Iran has pardoned or commuted the prison sentences of 81 people convicted of offences linked to the unrest after last year's disputed election – just days before new protests to mark its anniversary.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, authorised the pardons to mark the birthday of Fatimah, Prophet Muhammad's daughter, official media reported today.

But analysts called the move part of an attempt to mollify the opposition and head off trouble next week.

The names of those being freed were not announced, but in recent months there have been several executions and long jail terms handed down to supporters of the Green movement, who are accused of "sedition" by the Islamic regime.

Amnesty International estimates that hundreds of people, held for taking part in peaceful protests, remain in custody.

Opposition groups have asked permission to hold demonstrations on 12 June, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory last year over the Green challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi. So far only pro-government events have been authorised. The last opposition protests, in February, were relatively subdued.

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