Iran calls political opponents enemies of Islam

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A traditional Islamic concept about protecting the faith and its followers has become a judicial weapon for Iran's rulers: charging opponents as so-called enemies of God with the threat of possible death sentences.

Iran's accusations of "moharebeh" — literally "waging war" in Arabic — have opened deep rifts between ruling clerics and Islamic scholars questioning how an idea about safeguarding Muslims can be transformed into a tool to punish political protesters.

The outcry increased last week after an appeals court reportedly upheld the death sentence for Mohammad Amin Valian, a 20-year-old student convicted of moharebeh crimes, which Iran's legal code defines as "defiance of God" — or the state — and punishable by hanging.

Valian's case has become a new rallying point for the opposition as authorities try to further rattle protesters after crushing demonstrations last month.

Valian has only admitted to throwing stones at security forces during anti-government protests in December, according to opposition Web sites. On Sunday, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said the student still can appeal.

The case also highlights the huge perception gap in Iran. Opposition groups have declared Iran's leadership politically bankrupt after alleged vote-rigging and violence. But hard-line supporters of the Islamic system consider it answerable only to God.

"Using moharebeh to defend the regime is... >>>

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