Foe of Iran Government Calls for Referendum

Defying a harsh crackdown on political protesters in Iran, one of the country’s most outspoken opposition leaders on Monday called for a national referendum to gauge the popularity of the government.

The proposal from the leader, Mehdi Karroubi, was publicized on Iranian opposition Web sites after he had met with another opposition figure, Mir Hussein Moussavi, at Mr. Karroubi’s home in Tehran. Both men ran for president in the election last June and contend that the victory of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was a result of pervasive fraud.

It was clear from Mr. Karroubi’s call for a referendum that he did not expect the government to take it seriously. But his ability even to make such a demand and spread the message over the Internet seemed calculated to frustrate the Iranian authorities.

The authorities raided the homes of many potential protesters leading up to Feb. 11, the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and arrested hundreds of activists on the day itself, when large opposition protests had been planned.

Mr. Karroubi’s son, Ali Karroubi, was among those arrested Feb. 11, and was said to have been tortured before he was released.

The government also crippled the opposition’s communications, blocking Gmail, slowing the Internet, shutting down text messaging services and jamming satellite television channels.

In his statement, Mr. Karroubi wrote that the authorities turned the country into a “military ba… >>>

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