Iran police break up memorial for protest victims
Baton-wielding Iranian police fired tear gas on Thursday and arrested protesters mourning the young woman killed in post-election violence who has become a symbol for the opposition to Tehran's hardline leaders, Reuters reported.
The renewed protests show the opposition refuses to be quelled or accept the June 12 hardline election victory despite a security crackdown, the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators and repeated calls from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The clashes erupted after hundreds of supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi gathered to mourn Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death on June 20 was captured on video and has been seen by hundreds of thousands on the Internet.
At least 300 mourners were at a ceremony for the 26-year-old music student at Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, greeting the opposition leader with chants of "Mousavi we support you" and clinging to his car as he arrived, a witness said.
But police forced Mousavi to return to his car and leave.
Many hundreds later tried to move toward the Grand Mosala, a large prayer venue in central Tehran. But police were out in force outside the Mosala, having rejected a request by opposition leaders to hold a memorial ceremony there.
"There are thousands of people chanting slogans in favor of Mousavi. Hundreds of riot police around Mosala and nearby streets are trying to disperse them," another witness said.
Plainclothes security agents and riot police beat protesters with batons and police fired tear gas, witnesses said.
Protesters set garbage containers alight in nearby streets. At least three protesters were arrested and police smashed the car windows of drivers who honked their horns in support of the demonstrators, one of the witnesses said.
Smaller groups of scores of protesters gathered in parts of Tehran as evening fell, shouting "death to dictators," and "independence, freedom, Iranian republic"; an echo of a slogan from the 1979 revolution with the word "Iranian" replacing the word "Islamic" that was used 30 years ago.
Official restrictions prevent Reuters and other news organizations from reporting outside their offices.
Later, as night fell, Tehran residents shouted "Allahu Akbar" -- "God is greatest" -- from balconies and rooftops.
Mousavi and another reformist candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, say the authorities rigged the June 12 vote to ensure the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Supreme Leader Khamenei has upheld the result and demanded an end to protests over the election, which tipped Iran into its worst internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed deep rifts within the establishment.