Security Forces Clash with Iranian Protestors

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Security forces clashed with opposition protesters gathered Wednesday for a memorial for Iran's most senior dissident cleric, beating men and women and firing tear gas, reformist Web sites reported.

The gathering at the main mosque in the central city of Isfahan, 200 miles (325 kilometers) southeast of Tehran, was meant to honor Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri,  the spiritual leader of the Iranian reformist movement who died Sunday.

His death set off large memorial ceremonies that turned into pro-opposition protests in defiance of a month-long government crackdown on protesters rallying against the disputed June presidential elections, according to the Associated Press Iran has been in turmoil since the vote, which the opposition alleges Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.

More than 50 people were arrested Wednesday in Isfahan, including pro-opposition cleric Masoud Adib, who was expected to address the gathering at the mosque, the Salaamnews and Parlemannews Web sites said.

Mourners poured out in thousands into the streets leading to the mosque, although anti-riot police and plainclothes pro-government Basij militiamen had blocked the neighborhood, the Web sites said.

Parlemannews reported that Basij beat people, including women, and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. It said troops also surrounded the home of Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, a senior reformist cleric who organized the memorial.

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