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July 17th, 2009
11:14 AM ET

Key cleric wants Iran election prisoners freed

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/17/art.rafsanjani.afp.gi.jpg caption="Rafsanjani remains an influential figure in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's circle."]

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) - One of Iran's most powerful clerics, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has called on the Iranian government to release those people arrested following last month's disputed presidential election.

"There is no need to have these numbers of people in prison," the former Iranian president said during his highly anticipated Friday sermon.

"Let them come back to their families. Let the enemy not laugh at us and criticize us. We must sympathize with those who have suffered damages. The system cannot lose them. If the system reapproaches them they will come back to us."

Tens of thousands of people gathered in and around Tehran University as Rafsanjani spoke for about an hour, according to witnesses at the speech. Iranian police used tear gas to disperse some of the crowds.

Rafsanjani backs reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi, the opposition candidate who challenged hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the disputed June 12 vote.

After weeks of silence, Rafsanjani has become increasingly vocal in opposing the brutal crackdown on demonstrators who protested election results.

Keep reading this story »

Video: Watch more about Rafsanjani's sermon


Filed under: Iran
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Flo Maxwell

    I wish somebody would tell me what is so wrong about the richest people giving something back to their country by welcoming a small amount of tax to pay for healthcare? Would it prevent them from vacationing on their yachts, or cause them to have to get along with one less servant in their luxurious penthouse apartment? Republicans love to claim goodness, family values, christianity, but they are the most ruthless, bigoted, cheap, unfaithful bunch of hoodlums and so-called christians I have ever known! They are too spiritually blind to see that it is God Who has prospered them to be rich, it is not because they are so smart! If they were smart they would read the Bible where Jesus said: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." Mark 10:25 Nelson's NKJV Also, Prov. 29:7, "The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge." I wish these people would search their hearts and souls. They need to be saved! And I wish all God-fearing Americans would stop worrying about the economy, deficits and all the rest and concentrate on repentance for this country so that God will take over and save us all before we are all destroyed! That's what I'm afraid of, nevermind the neverending selfish politics. It's too bad that a country that has enjoyed so many blessings from the Lord have turned their backs on Him just like Israel did so many times in the Old Testament; it was destroyed and taken into captivity many times until God got tired of forgiving them and finally gave the same inheritance to the gentiles. Well, the gentiles got it, and they are now doing the same thing Israel did! God help us!

    July 20, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  2. Stephen

    Hello everyone here and in IRAN. Come on all of you music celebs-This is for you. Sing to the tune, "Barbaranne" by Beach Boys, and sing it all the way to Iran!

    ROCK, ROCK, ROCK, ROCK-IRAQ, IRAN;
    ROCK, ROCK, ROCK, ROCK-IRAQ, IRAN;
    ROCK, ROCK, ROCK, ROCK-IRAQ, IRAN;
    IRAQ...IRAN....YOU KNOW THAT WE CAN....
    SPREAD A ROCKIN' REVOLUTION,
    AND YOU KNOW WE'RE GONNA' DO IT NOW...

    ROCK, ROCK, ROCK, ROCK IRAQ IRAN.......

    July 20, 2009 at 3:09 am |
  3. Caro

    Just curious if anyone can tell me why the Iranians have not yet conducted a general strike? Is this not what Moussavi had wanted?

    July 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  4. Larry

    Sounds like this cleric has some compassionThere might be hope after all for Iranians.

    July 17, 2009 at 7:13 pm |