Iran’s influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday defied a call by a group of hardline clerics to back the country’s disputed presidential election result, a news agency reported. On Friday, 50 members of the 86-seat Assembly of Experts, called on Rafsanjani in a statement to show more support for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed the re-election of the hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, soon after the June 12 vote, which moderates say was rigged. Challenging the authority of Iran’s most powerful figure, Rafsanjani declared the Islamic republic in crisis in during his sermon on July 17 and demanded an end to arrests of moderates. “My standpoint (about the election) is the same as I mentioned in the Friday prayer sermon,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA news agency. The remarks of the cleric, who is head of the Assembly of Experts, which in theory can dismiss the supreme leader, indicated the reformist camp was unwilling to give in quietly despite the pressure. The election has plunged the Islamic state into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and has exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite. Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers, have been detained by the authorities since the election.