TEHRAN, July 5 (UPI) -- Senior Iranian religious leaders suggested Saturday recent election results are not legitimate and blasted the government's use of force against protesters.
The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum is generally independent and took no stand during the election, The New York Times reported. But the statement was an act of defiance against the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who has proclaimed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election to a second term.
"Is it possible to consider the results of the election as legitimate by merely the validation of the Guardian Council?" the association asked.
"The complaints of other candidates were ignored and people's protest, which was expressed peacefully, was violently crushed," the statement added.
Khameini has depicted opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters as criminals.
"This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Mousavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic," Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, told the Times. "Remember they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khameini."