TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi will attend Friday prayers this week in his first official public appearance since last month’s disputed election, a statement on his website said.
Mousavi’s statement, posted late on Wednesday, confirmed a media report earlier this week that he would attend the prayers at Tehran University to be led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 presidential election, says the vote was rigged in the hardline incumbent’s favour.
The authorities reject charges of vote fraud, but the official election result sparked days of mass street protests by supporters of Mousavi and exposed deepening divisions within the Islamic Republic’s leadership.
“Since I regard as obligatory responding to the invitation of the sympathisers and supporters in the path of safeguarding legitimate rights of a free and honourable life, I will maintain a presence alongside you on Friday,” Mousavi said.
Mousavi’s website said he made the statement “in response to the public’s invitation for him to participate in Friday prayers in Tehran.” Friday prayers in Iran have the potential to reach a wide audience as they are broadcast live on radio.
On Tuesday, the Etemad newspaper said both Mousavi and reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, a supporter of his, would attend the prayers, which are broadcast live.
Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, upheld Ahmadinejad’s landslide win in his Friday sermon one week after the vote.
But Mousavi, who was prime minister in the 1980s, has said Ahmadinejad’s next government would be “illegitimate”.
He has also called on authorities to release hundreds of people detained in the turbulent aftermath of the election, including leading reformists, journalists and rights lawyers.
Rafsanjani will lead the prayers after two months of absence. Some of his relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for taking part in pro-Mousavi rallies.
State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia, but some rights activists believe the figure is higher.
The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.
Iran has accused Britain and the United States, which have criticised a crackdown on opposition protests, of interfering in its internal affairs. London and Washington reject the charge.