Iran police clash with mourners at protesters` graves
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Last Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 23:29
Tehran: Iranian riot police armed with batons and belts clashed with mourners staging a defiant graveside commemoration on Thursday for protesters killed in post-election violence, witnesses said.

It was the first major violence between security forces and demonstrators in three weeks in Iran, where tensions are still running high over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last month.

Shouting "death to the dictator" and "government of the coup: resign, resign" some of the estimated 2,000-strong crowd hurled stones at hundreds of police at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery south of Tehran, the witnesses said.

Police forced Iran's main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to leave the graveyard just minutes after his arrival and were also surrounding prominent reformist Mehdi Karroubi, witnesses said.

"Today is a mourning day. Loyal Iranians are the mourners today," shouted the crowds.

Iranians were marking the 40th day since the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who came to symbolise the public uprising over Ahmadinejad's June 12 victory which the opposition charges was rigged.

A graphic internet video of Neda bleeding to death on a Tehran street on June 20 was seen around the world and triggered an outcry over the sometimes brutal Iranian crackdown on demonstrators.

Crowds gathered around Neda's grave which was decorated with candles and flowers as police used sticks, batons and belts and arrested several mourners, including prominent film director Jafar Panahi and his family, a witness said.

Mousavi and Karroubi, who have waged a defiant protest campaign since losing to Ahmadinejad, had decided to visit the cemetery after the authorities banned another memorial ceremony at a major religious venue in Tehran.

"Mousavi... was immediately surrounded by anti-riot police who led him to his car," a witness said as people chanted "Ya Hossein! Mir Hossein!".

Karroubi protested at the heavy-handed action by police for what was planned as peaceful commemoration of the "martyrs" with graveside readings from the Koran, saying: "I don't understand this policy to deploy and surround (the cemetery) with security personnel."

Mousavi, a Prime Minister in the post-revolution years who was Ahmadinejad's main challenger, has consistently refused to acknowledge his rival's victory, saying it was a "shameful fraud."

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 23:29

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