Reformers Teargassed as Iran's Top Cleric Demands Change

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2009 7:43 AM CDT
This photo, taken by an individual not employed by the AP, shows an opposition demonstrator kicking a tear gas canister during a protest in front of Tehran University, Iran, Friday, July 17, 2009.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president and most powerful supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, addressed thousands of young reformists in green today in a highly anticipated sermon that may trigger further protests. The visibly upset cleric demanded that all political prisoners be freed and lamented that "we had the chance to become the best, but we let it slip." Mousavi supporters interrupted Rafsanjani with shouts of "Freedom, freedom!" and some young reformists were tear-gassed, reports al-Jazeera.

Rafsanjani called for "an open society" and invoked former Ayatollah Khomeini when he insisted that "the legitimacy of the country comes from its people's consent." He also took a swipe at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for censoring clerics who have come out against his leadership. Iranian authorities ordered state television not to broadcast the sermon, but Rafsanjani's remarks filtered out via the Internet.