Obama Calls on Iran to Follow Egyptian Example; Iranian Lawmakers Call for Death of Protesters

By Fred Lucas | February 16, 2011 | 4:01 AM EST

This photo, taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, shows an anti-government protest in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. (AP Photo)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama Tuesday called on Iran to follow the example of Egypt in allowing free expression in favor of democratic reforms.

Late last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his 30 years in office after three weeks of massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo. Similar demonstrations have taken place across the Middle East, but in Iran, the government has cracked down on dissidents by using violent means.

“We have sent a strong message to our allies in the region saying, let's look at Egypt’s example, as opposed to Iran's example,” Obama said Tuesday during a news conference.

“You know, I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran,” he said.

On Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers called for opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami to face trial and be put to death one day after two demonstrators were killed after clashing with security forces. Tens of thousands turned out to protest on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

“We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders, 221 lawmakers said in a statement.

The Iranian Parliament formed a special committee to review the case and decide in coming days about how the government should deal with the opposition leaders. The situation in Egypt reignited pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran which had erupted in 2009 after the presidential election that year when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term, prompting suspicion from reformers of a rigged election.

One reporter asked Obama, “What is your message to the Iranian people in light of there was some criticism that your administration didn't speak out strongly enough after their last – the demonstrations in Iran after their elections?”

Obama again drew comparisons to Egypt.

“What's been different is the Iranian government's response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people,” the president said.

“And, you know, my hope and expectation is that we’re going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government, understanding that America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran any more than it could inside of Egypt; that ultimately these are sovereign countries that are going to have to make their own decisions,” Obama continued. “What we can do is lend moral support to – to those who are – are seeking a better life for themselves.”