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Iran hard-liners: Put opposition to death

TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-line Iranian lawmakers called yesterday for the country's opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death, a day after clashes between opposition protesters and security forces left two people dead and dozens injured.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally Monday in solidarity with Egypt's popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. It was the first major show of strength from the beleaguered opposition after canceling rallies for the past year when authorities refused permission.

In Washington, President Barack Obama criticized Iran for its harsh treatment of protesters and noted the irony of its support for Egypt's uprisings while repressing demonstrators at home.

At an open session of parliament yesterday, pro-government legislators demanded that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami be held responsible for the protests.

Pumping their fists in the air, the lawmakers chanted "death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami." "We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment" for the opposition leaders, 221 lawmakers said in a statement.

Hard-liners have long sought to put senior opposition figures on trial, but the calls for the death penalty signaled an escalation in their demands. Parliament formed a special committee to review the case.

Iran has already tried many opposition figures and activists on charges of fomenting mass protests after the disputed 2009 presidential elections that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term. More than 80 people were sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years. The opposition says scores were killed in the crackdown on those protests; the government says only around 30 died.

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