BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran’s clerical leadership on Friday stepped up a campaign to silence opposition claims that protesters had been raped in prison, with prayer leaders in at least three major cities denouncing the accusations and their chief sponsor.
The accusations of rape — usually a taboo subject in Iran — have multiplied and provoked strong reactions in the days since a reformist cleric and presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, broached the subject last weekend. His allegations added fuel to an already volatile debate about prison abuse in the wake of Iran’s disputed June 12 election.
Also on Friday, a group of reformist former lawmakers issued an extraordinary statement on opposition Web sites in which they denounced the government’s harsh tactics and appealed to a powerful state body to investigate the qualifications of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Although it was not clear who had endorsed the statement, or even if all of the lawmakers were in the country, it appeared to be the most direct challenge to the supreme leader’s authority yet in the unrest following the ele… >>>