Alexa

Iranian opposition leader condemns protester deaths

Several killed, 300 arrested in Tehran during Shiite Islam's observance

This photo, taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, shows Iranian anti-riot police officers f...

This photo, taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, shows Iranian anti-riot police officers f...

An Iranian opposition leader on Monday condemned the killing of protesters during Shiite Islam's most important observance, saying the government was even more brutal than the cruel regime that was ousted by the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.
Mahdi Karroubi, a candidate who lost in June's disputed presidential election, posted a statement on an opposition Web site asking how the government could spill the blood of its people on the sacred day of Ash\ura. He said even the former government of the hated shah respected the holy day.
"What has really happened? They (the ruling system) spilled the blood of people on the day of Ashura and gets a group of savage individuals confronting people," Karroubi said on the pro-reform Rah-e-Sabz Web site.
The shah, who was overthrown in 1979, was widely hated, and comparing a rival to him is a serious, though common, insult in Iranian politics.
The violence erupted Sunday when security forces fired on stone-throwing protesters in the center of Tehran. Opposition Web sites and witnesses say at least five people were killed, while Iran's state-run Press TV, quoting the Supreme National Security Council, said the death toll was eight. It gave no further details.
It was one of the bloodiest confrontations in months, and the dead included a nephew of chief opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, according to Mousavi's Web site, Kaleme.ir.
Police have denied using firearms, but the clashes were sure to deepen antagonism between the government and a reform movement that has shown resilience in the face of repeated crackdowns since the June election.
Some accounts of the violence Sunday in Tehran were vivid and detailed, but they could not be independently confirmed because of government restrictions on media coverage. Police said dozens of officers were injured and more than 300 protesters were arrested.
The street chaos coincided with commemorations of Ashura, fueling protesters' defiance with its message of sacrifice and dignity in the face of coercion. The observance commemorates the 7th-century death in battle of one of Shiite Islam's most beloved saints.
Still, many demonstrators had not anticipated such harsh tactics by the authorities, despite police warnings of tougher action against any protests on the sacred day.
Amateur video footage purportedly from the center of Tehran showed an enraged crowd carrying away one casualty, chanting, "I'll kill, I'll kill the one who killed my brother." In several locations, demonstrators confronted security forces, hurling stones and setting their motorcycles, cars and vans ablaze, according to video footage and pro-reform Web sites.
Protesters tried to cut off roads with burning barricades. One police officer was photographed with blood streaming down his face after he was set upon by the crowd.
There were unconfirmed reports that four people died in protests in Tabriz in northwest Iran, the Rah-e-Sabz Web site said. Fierce clashes also broke out in Isfahan and Najafabad in central Iran and Shiraz in the south, it said.
The protests began with thousands of opposition supporters chanting "Death to the dictator," a reference to hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as they marched in defiance of official warnings of a harsh crackdown on any demonstrations coinciding with Ashura.
Security forces tried but failed to disperse protesters on a central Tehran street with tear gas, baton charges and warning shots. They then opened fire on protesters, said witnesses and the Rah-e-Sabz Web site. The site said that in addition to Mousavi's nephew, four protesters were fatally shot.
More than two dozen opposition supporters were injured, some of them seriously, with limbs broken from beatings, according to witnesses.
An Iranian police statement said five people were killed in the unrest. "Experts are seeking to identify the suspicious elements," the statement said. Iran's deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, said one person died after falling from a bridge, two were killed in a car accident, and a fourth was fatally shot in mysterious circumstances.