Tens of thousands of regime loyalists in Iran yesterday called for the blood of two opposition leaders, whose long-dormant Green movement has been resuscitated by uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East.
But, although rattled, the authorities signalled a reluctance to risk renewed unrest by making martyrs out of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi.
An ultra-hardline Friday prayers leader at Tehran University, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, assured worshippers that calls to hang the two men were superfluous because the two politicians and their movement were effectively as good as dead.
"To those who call for their execution, I should say that they have already been executed.
"They have lost all their credibility and prestige - everything," proclaimed the diminutive octogenarian cleric who heads the Islamic republic's influential Guardian Council.
Senior regime officials and state-sponsored media have accused the two opposition leaders of "sedition" and treachery - both charges punishable by death.
Ayatollah Jannati made clear that the regime intended to decapitate the Green movement by silencing its leaders. "Their communications should be completely cut.
"They should not be able to receive and send messages. Their phone lines and internet should be cut. They should be prisoners in their homes."