By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– In a potential setback for Christians seeking religious freedom, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was “re-elected”, officials said, but his main rival called the declared victory “treason to the votes of the people.”
The Islamic nation’s electoral commission said Saturday, June 13, Ahmadinejad received over 60 percent of the vote, about the same number former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi earlier claimed to have won.
On his Web site, Moousavi urged his supporters to resist a “governance of lie and dictatorship” and warned that “people won’t respect those who take power through fraud,” a statement analysts said could mark social unrest.
An estimated 70 percent of Iran’s 46 million eligible voters voted Friday, June 12, in an election where a large turnout was expected to benefit Mousavi, observers said.
Police sealed off Mousavi’s campaign headquarters to prevent his supporters from holding a news conference, reporters on the scene added.
Dutch television footage monitored by BosNewsLife showed secret service personnel apparently intimidating Ahmadinejad critics by recording interviews given to foreign journalists.
At least some Christians have said they wanted reformist Mousavi to win Friday’s election, in hopes he would end an ongoing police crackdown on Christian converts, including many former Muslims, and allow more religious freedom in the strict Islamic nation.
Dozens of Christians have been detained ahead of the ballot and at least five of them remain missing, said Christian advocacy groups Open Door and other sources. Other believers have cautioned that even under Mousavi life may not immediately improve for Iran’s Christian minority as Islamic leaders view the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power structures.
They point out that the theocracy headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei oversees all major policy decisions and key government functions, including managing key ministries such as the intelligence and defense services along with the appointment of all foreign ministers.
Under the Iranian constitution, the Council of Guardians reviews all statutes passed by the legislature but critics say the body is functionally controlled by the Ayatollah Khamenei. Besides religious freedom developments, the international community has also been closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israeli defense officials told The Jerusalem Post news paper Friday, June 12, they did not believe Iran’s nuclear policy would change, whoever wins the ballot.
Earlier diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, told The Associated Press news agency that Iran has has rebuffed a bid from the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency to beef up its monitoring ability at an important atomic site in the city of Natanz, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) south of capital Tehran.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report said last week that some 5,000 centrifuges were now enriching at Natanz — about 1,000 more than at the time of the last agency report, issued in February — with more than 2,000 others ready to start enriching.
Experts have reportedly said that the over 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of low-enriched uranium Iran had accumulated by February was enough to produce enough weapons-grade material through further enrichment for one nuclear weapon. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)