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Iran's opposition leader assails ruling clerics

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's opposition leader has said that a corrupt power structure is running the country in the name of Islam — his harshest words to date against the hard-line clerical leadership.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has often spoken up against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also lately stepped up his criticism of Iran's ruling clerics.

In remarks carried late Sunday on his website Kaleme.com, Mousavi said the country's rulers "arrest and beat people in the name of Islam, prevent activities of political parties in the name of Islam, and shut down media in the name of Islam."

The clerical leaders have called pro-opposition protesters enemies of God, or mohareb in Farsi — a crime punishable by death under Iranian law — and have increasingly used the concept as a weapon against opponents.

Iran's judiciary has put more than 100 people on a mass trial on similar charges since August. About a dozen people have been sentenced to death, and more than 80 others have received prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years.

"You call anybody who speaks against you a ... mohareb or overthrower. This is not beneficial to you or the country. This is not compatible with Islam," Mousavi was quoted as saying. "Islam doesn't allow beating, libel, keeping people in prison and imposing restrictions."

The opposition argues that Ahmadinejad won the June 2009 election through massive vote fraud and that Mousavi was the rightful winner. More than 80 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds of activists and pro-reform figures arrested in the crackdown on massive opposition street rallies protesting Ahmadinejad's disputed election win.

The government, which puts the number of confirmed deaths in the post-election turmoil at 30, accuses opposition leaders of being "stooges of the West" and of seeking to topple the ruling system through street protests.

Mousavi argues that some in the clerical establishment — which came to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — have increasingly become corrupt and strayed from the Revolution's original ideals.

"The power structure developed by some on the basis of interests and corruption has gradually stopped" working in the interest of the people, Mousavi also said.

Mousavi also said his Green Movement will keep raising public awareness as its main strategy in the face of the authorities' bloody crackdown. He stressed that recent shutdowns of newspapers and blocking of opposition websites would not help the ruling system silence the opposition.

UPDATES with details; CORRECTS lede to delete partial quote; AMENDS long headline; ADDS byline.