Monday, December 7, 2009

Iranian police use teargas and batons in clashes with protesters

Iranian police use teargas and batons in clashes with protesters
Mobile phone network cut and protesters arrested in crackdown on supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi
Mark Tran and agencies, Monday 7 December 2009 12.05 GMT
Thousands of Iranian police used batons and fired teargas to disperse demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans in a central Tehran square in the latest street confrontation between the government and the opposition.

Authorities shut down the mobile phone network in the centre of the capital to stop opposition protesters from contacting each other, the reformist website Rah-e Sabz said. At least two women supporters of the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were among those arrested, it said.
"I saw at least 10 people being arrested and taken to minibuses," one witness said.
"Police fired teargas at demonstrators in Vali-ye Asr Square … they are clashing with protesters," another said.
The clashes came as Iran commemorated the killing of three students in 1953 under the former shah. Security forces put on a show of strength to prevent the opposition from taking over the main state rally. The large security operation showed that authorities planned to make good on their promise to deal harshly with protesters. In recent years, students have used the occasion to hold pro-reform demonstrations.
"Police are using batons to disperse demonstrators. People are chanting anti-government slogans in the Ferdowsi Square," a witness told Reuters.
Other witnesses said police were conducting ID checks on anyone entering the Tehran University campus to block opposition activists from joining the students. Security forces also sought to conceal the campus from public view, covering the main gate and the fence with banners carrying quotations by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and congratulatory messages marking an important Shia occasion celebrated yesterday.

"There are hundreds of riot police, [they are] everywhere around Tehran University and nearby streets," a witness said.

Many shops and businesses outside the university were closed but the rest of Tehran appeared to be functioning normally.
Foreign media were banned from covering the protests. They were told by the culture ministry that press cards would be suspended for three days starting today.
Last night, government opponents climbed on to rooftops and shouted "Allahu Akbar" and "Death to the dictator".
Internet access was restricted to deny the opposition a vital means of communication to mobilise supporters.
Government opponents were hoping for a large turnout for today's demonstrations to show their movement's strength despite several government crackdowns and intimidation of opposition figures outside Iran since the country's disputed presidential election in June. Mousavi threw his support behind the planned student demonstrations and declared that his movement was still alive. A statement posted on his website said that the clerical establishment could not silence students and was losing legitimacy in the Iranian people's minds.
"A great nation would not stay silent when some confiscate its vote," said Mousavi, who claims President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the 12 June election victory from him.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, accused the opposition yesterday of exposing divisions in the country and creating opportunities for Iran's enemies.

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