Iran in ‘Serious Crisis’

Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi defied the hardline authorities' crackdown on his supporters on Friday, demanding the release of political prisoners and saying that killing him would not end the unrest.

"I am not afraid to die for people's demands ... Harsh remarks ... will create internal uprising," said Mousavi, five days after his nephew was shot dead during a protest rally.

Mousavi, whose allegation that the June 12 presidential election he lost to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was rigged was the catalyst for a wave of unrest, said in a statement posted on his website that the Islamic Republic was in "serious crisis."

In his most outspoken remarks of recent months, Mousavi declared that "arresting or killing Mousavi, (or fellow opposition leader Mehdi) Karoubi ... will not calm the situation."

"The election law should be changed ... political prisoners should immediately be freed ... press freedom should be preserved," his statement said, referring to at least three pro-reform newspapers that were closed down after the election.

The remarks on his Kaleme website were a new challenge to the hardline authorities who have intensified their crackdown on the reform movement since Sunday, when eight people -- including a nephew of Mousavi -- were killed in fiery protests on the day of the Shi'ite Muslim ritual of Ashura.

"Corrupting God's earth"

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Iranian opposition leader, has called for an immediate end to the government crackdown on opposition activists, saying he was ready to die in defence of people's rights.

In a statement on his Kaleme website on Friday, Mousavi also said that the Islamic Republic was in "serious crisis" following the disputed presidential election in June.

"I am not afraid to die for people's demands ... Iran is in serious crisis ... Harsh remarks ... will create internal uprising ... the election law should be changed ... political prisoners should be freed," his statement added.

He accused the government of making more mistakes by resorting to "violence and killings" to quell the protests over the poll outcome, that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, re-elected for another term.

"Arresting or killing Mousavi, [another opposition leader Mehdi] Karoubi ... will not calm the situation," Mousavi, who lost the election, said in the statement.

Mousavi also demanded that the government "take responsibility for the problems it has created in the country... and recognise people's right to lawful assembly".

"I say openly that until there is an acknowledgement of the existence of a serious crisis in the country, there will be no possibility of resolving the problems and issues."

'Mixed message'

Baqer Moin, a specialist on Iran based in London, told Al Jazeera that Mousavi was being both defiant and conciliatory in his statement.

"He's saying: 'if you want war then I am man of war, if you want peace then I am man of peace ... I'm ready to negotiate'.," Moin said.

"Having said that he comes with five suggestions saying that if you really want peace in the country you can't go overnight towards the maximum demand of everybody - we have to move gradually towards a destination."

"So in a sense he is coming with some realistic proposals within the constitution to deal with the current crisis," he said.

Also on Friday, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the speaker of Iran's Guardian Council, accused anti-government protesters of "corrupting God's earth". The charge is punishable by death under Islamic law.