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Iran MPs want death penalty for opposition leaders

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian lawmakers urged judiciary on Tuesday to hand out death penalties to opposition leaders for fomenting unrest in the Islamic state after a rally in which one person was killed and dozens were wounded, state media said.

Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters when thousands of opposition supporters rallied in sympathy for popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia on Monday, reviving mass protests that shook Iran after a presidential vote in 2009.

"(Opposition leaders) Mehdi Karroubi and Mirhossein Mousavi are corrupts on earth and should be tried," the official IRNA news agency quoted lawmakers as saying in a statement.

The loose term "Corrupt on Earth," a charge which has been leveled at political dissidents in the past, carries the death penalty in the Islamic Iran.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said: "Those who created public disorder on Monday will be confronted firmly and immediately."

Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused opposition leaders of being part of a Western plot to overthrow the Islamic system. The claim has been denied by Mousavi and Karroubi.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani also accused the United States and its allies of providing support to the opposition.

"The main aim of Americans was to simulate the recent events in the Middle East in Iran to divert attentions from those countries," Larijani said, state radio reported.

Protests against Iran's clerical establishment appeared to have ended and life was back to normal in Tehran streets and other cities on Tuesday.

INCREASING PRESSURE

But wary of a repeat of the protests in 2009, which saw the biggest unrest since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, hardline rulers are expected to step up pressure on the opposition to prevent a new flare-up.

The last anti-government protest in Iran was in December 2009 when eight people were killed.

At least 20 pro-reform activists were arrested before the protests, opposition websites reported.

State television described protesters as "Hypocrites, monarchists, thugs and seditionists." A senior police official said dozens of protesters had been arrested and at least nine policemen were wounded by "hypocrites."

"We have information...that America, Britain ad Israel guided the opposition leaders who called for the rally," said deputy police chief Ahmadreza Radan, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Iran's top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia against secular, Western-allied rulers an "Islamic awakening," akin to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah in Iran.

But the opposition say events in Tunisia and Egypt mirror their own protests after the June 2009 vote which they say was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. Authorities deny this.

The opposition leaders, who called the protest, were prevented by security forces from participating the rally, Mousavi's website Kaleme reported.

Amnesty International, Britain and the United States condemned the authorities' reaction to the protests.

(Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi and Reza Derakhshi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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