TEHRAN - Ezzatollah Sahabi, a 77-year-old senior opposition leader freed from prison last year, dared Iran's powerful conservative clerics Friday to execute him if he was a true threat to the Islamic republic.
"If you believe that I'm so harmful for the country, the people, Islam and the revolution, then execute me, because in any case there is another world where we will all be judged," Sahabi wrote in an open letter asking for support from reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Parliament Speaker Mehdi Qarubi and justice chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
Sahabi, a senior leader of the outlawed Iran Freedom Movement (IFM), went on to accuse the Iranian security forces of harassing him since he was freed last March after 15 months in prison where he was held with some 60 other dissidents on charges of plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime.
Sahabi, whose court sentence has never been publicly revealed, demanded Khatami and the others intervene to have the security forces who continue to haul him in for questioning "the same as when they held me in detention for 15 months" called off.
"I am ready to go to prison ... but I am sure even in prison I would not be able to escape these men. I ask to be executed," Sahabi said.
He accused the conservatives of trying to silence him politically.
"The agents charged with interrogating me ... threaten to open a new file against me and ask me to stop all political activity which is not under their control," he said.
Sahabi said that during his time behind bars he feared his foes would hang him. He said he faced such pressure he "was ready to sign whatever statements" his guards put in front of him.
The IFM was founded by Mehdi Bazargan, prime minister of a provisional government set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution that fell several months later.
The group was banned, but tolerated until March 2001, when it was proscribed by the conservative courts amid sweeping arrests and has been targetted amid the political battles between the country's conservatives and reformers.