RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A short midlevel cleric, with a neat white beard and a clergyman’s calm bearing, Mehdi Karroubi has watched from his home in Tehran in recent months as his aides have been arrested, his offices raided, his newspaper shut down. He himself has been threatened with arrest and, indirectly, the death penalty.
His response: bring it on.
Once a second-tier opposition figure operating in the shadow of Mir Hussein Moussavi, his fellow challenger in Iran’s discredited presidential election in June, Mr. Karroubi has emerged in recent months as the last and most defiant opponent of the country’s leadership.
The authorities have dismissed as fabrications his accusations of official corruption, voting fraud and the torture and rape of detained protesters. A former confidant of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a longtime conservative politician, he has lately been accused by the government of fomenting unrest and aiding Iran’s foreign enemies.
Four months after mass protests erupted in response to the dubious victory claims of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the opposition’s efforts have largely stalled in the face of unrelenting government pressure, arrests, long detentions, harsh sentences, censorship and a strategic refusal to compromise.
But for all its success at preserving authority, the government has been unable to silence or intimidate Mr. Karroubi, its most tenacious and, in many ways, most problematic critic. While other opposition figures, including Mr. Moussavi and two former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, are seldom heard now, Mr. Karroubi has been unsparing and highly vocal in his criticism of the government, which he feels has lost all legitimacy.