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August 14, 2009

Lawmakers Challenge Khamenei’s Qualification to Rule

The AP reports that former Reformist lawmakers have called for a probe of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that would investigate his qualification to rule following the post-election protests.

TEHRAN, Iran — A group of former reformist lawmakers appealed to a powerful clerical body in Iran to investigate Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s qualification to rule in an unprecedented challenge to the country’s most powerful man over the postelection crackdown.
The call came as controversy heated up Friday over allegations that protesters detained the crackdown were tortured. Hard-line clerics across the country demanded that a senior reform leader be prosecuted for claiming that some detainees were raped by their jailers.
The former lawmakers’ appeal was to the Assembly of Experts, a body of clerics that under Iranian law has the power to name the supreme leader and, in theory, to remove him — though such a move has never been attempted. There was no immediate response from the assembly to the group’s letter, sent late Thursday.
But even if the call is ignored and is only symbolic, it was the most direct challenge to Khamenei yet in the turmoil that has embroiled Iran since its disputed June 12 presidential election. The letter breaks a major taboo among Iran’s political classes against overtly targeting Khamenei, whose position at the top of the political-clerical hierarchy has long been unquestioned.

This high-level challenge of Khamenei’s rule is unprecedented in the Islamic Republic — though it isn’t certain that government elites will take it seriously. It seems Rafsanjani’s ability to gather support amongst the Assembly of Experts, which he chairs, will be crucial to this measure’s success.

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