Iran bans services for dissident cleric: Reports

Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for a leading dissident cleric, with the exception of those in his birthplace and the holy city of Qom, opposition websites reported on Thursday.

Tehran: Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for a leading dissident cleric, with the exception of those in his birthplace and the holy city of Qom, opposition websites reported on Thursday.

The reports on the Kaleme and Parlemannews websites came a day after they and other pro-reform websites said security forces had clashed with supporters of late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who were gathering for such a service in the city of Isfahan.

Montazeri, a government critic who was born in the central town of Najafabad, died on Saturday in the holy Shi`ite Muslim city of Qom, where vast crowds attended his funeral procession on Monday, some chanting anti-government slogans.

A news agency reported a reformist former government spokesman detained after Iran`s disputed June election had been sentenced to six years in jail.

It said Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the vote, was sentenced by a court on charges including acting against national security, propaganda against the Islamic system and possessing classified documents.

"Based on the court`s decision Ramezanzadeh was given a six-year obligatory jail sentence," the news agency quoted a Revolutionary court statement as saying. It did not say when the verdict was issued. Revolutionary courts usually handle security cases.

Thousands of people were arrested after the poll, which the opposition says was rigged in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s favor. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 have received jail sentences of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the vote, the judiciary says.

Montazeri`s death occurred in the tense run-up to Ashura on December 27, a politically important Shi`ite religious commemoration that offers the opposition another opportunity to show its strength.

That day coincides with the traditional seventh day of mourning for Montazeri, when more memorial services are usually held.
"According to an announcement by the Supreme National Security Council, with the exception of Qom and Najafabad, the holding of any meeting (memorial service) for Montazeri will be forbidden throughout the country," Kaleme said.

As an example, it said a planned memorial service in the city of Kashan, south of Tehran, was banned on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, opposition websites said security forces armed with batons and tear gas clashed with Montazeri supporters in Isfahan and nearby Najafabad.

If confirmed, the incidents would further highlight escalating tension in the major oil producer, six months after a disputed presidential vote plunged the Islamic Republic into its deepest internal crisis since it was founded three decades ago.

But a senior local official denied reports of clashes in Isfahan, blaming foreign media of "staging a psychological war" against the clerical establishment by publishing such reports.

Montazeri, an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution and a spiritual patron of the opposition, was a fierce critic of the hardline clerical establishment who denounced Ahmadinejad`s re-election in June as fraudulent.

Ahmadinejad`s re-election, in a vote the opposition says was rigged, kindled the biggest unrest in Iran`s 30-year history and split the political and clerical establishment.

The authorities deny poll rigging charges and have portrayed the huge opposition protests that erupted after the poll as a foreign-backed bid to topple the Islamic establishment.

Despite scores of arrests and security crackdowns, opposition protests have repeatedly flared up since the vote.

Iranian media reported Tehran would from next month ban banknotes which have been scribbled upon, a move one conservative website said was in response to the appearance of political slogans on some of them.

Expressions in support of moderate opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, such as "Oh Hossein, Mirhossein," have occasionally been cropping up on the Islamic Republic`s banknotes since the disputed election.

"Banknotes on which there are writings or are stamped or have any additional signs will be invalid," the Jam-e Jam daily quoted central bank official Ebrahim Darvishi as saying.

The Ayande website, seen as close to conservative politician Mohsen Rezaie, said in a headline about the move: "The central bank`s reaction to the writing of slogans on banknotes."

Bureau Report

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