Iranian students and opposition supporters demonstrate against the Iranian government at Tehran University on December 7, 2009 in Tehran,Iran. The protest was the largest in months. UPI | License Photo
TEHRAN, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Iranian leaders, stung by tenacious anti-government protests, have begun accusing some protesters of being enemies of God, a hanging offense, observers said.
Two men hanged in January were convicted of being "mohareb," enemies of God, and a semi-official news agency said a third man in prison also was accused of being mohareb, CNN reported Friday.
Being mohareb is the worst possible crime in Shiite Muslim law, Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, told CNN.
Traditional accusations did not succeed in intimidating protesters demonstrating against the June 12 presidential election in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, Milani said.
"They accused them of working in cahoots with the United States and Israel. When it didn't work, they said you are mohareb," he said. "I can't imagine them upping the legal ante. What you can do is increase the number of people they are executing in an in-your-face manner to bring terror to the people."
Labeling anti-government protesters is a relatively new arrow in the regime's quiver, Iranian journalist Amir Taheri said.
"It was not like that the beginning of the revolution. The revolution was an Islamic revolution but they did not try to give a religious aspect," Taheri told CNN. "Now, unfortunately, they are giving a very dangerous and arguably un-Iranian religious aspect to it by hating the Jews, hating the Bahais, (using) anti-Christian propaganda, executing or even murdering some Sunni Muslim preachers."
Even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution, did not accuse his opponents of being enemies of God, Milani said.
"In the early days of the revolution, Khomeini threatened to declare these people as mohareb," he said, "but I don't remember them ever passing a law that says if you go out and demonstrate, you are a mohareb."