Iran's supreme leader vowed Monday to deliver a "punch in the mouth" to the country's enemies if the opposition goes ahead with major new protests planned for this week, as a senior pro-reform figure was sentenced to six years in prison over postelection unrest.
The opposition has called for a large turnout for protests on Thursday to coincide with celebrations for the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is determined to participate in the demonstration, a step that could escalate tensions, his Web site reported Monday.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the opposition as "counterrevolutionaries" being used by the country's enemies, the United States, Britain and Israel, and vowed that Iranian unity in support of the Islamic revolution would defeat them.
Iranians "will punch (them) in their mouths to shock them," Khamenei said.
The opposition, he said, was not a part of the Iranian people. "Today, it is clear that those who stand against the great job done by the Iranian nation in the election, are not a part of the people" of Iran.
The opposition claims that Mousavi was the rightful winner of June 12 presidential elections and that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory was fraudulent. Street protests have persisted despite a heavy crackdown by security forces in which hundreds have been arrested.
In the past month, two people have been executed, and death sentences have been announced against nine others accused in the postelection unrest -- moves widely seen as an attempt by the court to intimidate protesters.
The semiofficial ISNA agency said Monday that former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh was sentenced to six years in prison by a Revolutionary court -- one of the most senior figures yet to be sentenced from a group of 100 reform activists and politicians in a mass trial from the postelection crackdown.
Aminzadeh's lawyer, Abbas Shiri, told ISNA his client was convicted of conspiring to "disturb security" and "spreading propaganda" against the ruling Islamic establishment. Aminzadeh served during the 1997-2005 administration of former pro-reform president Mohammad Khatami.
Gen. Ahmad Reza Radan, the deputy chief of Iran's police, warned the opposition against demonstrations on Thursday, saying slogans and banners deviating from the message of commemorating the 1979 Islamic reovlution will not be tolerated.
He said the paramilitary Basij, the feared street wing of the elite Revolutionary Guard, would be deployed to provide "order and security during the ceremony."
Mousavi, meanwhile, rallied supporters behind the demonstrations.
"While our beloved friends, classmates and teachers are in prison we will take to the streets Thursday with our green signs and show hard-liners we will deliver the Islamic republic from their jail, sooner or later," he told a group of students, according to his Web site, Kaleme.
Opposition supporters, he said, would avoid violence in Thursday's protest.
Thursday's are expected to be the largest protests since tens of thousands turned out for street marches in late December, held to coincide with a major religious holiday Ashoura. Those turned into the most violent clashes since the summer, with at least eight people killed in fighting between protesters and security forces.