Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hundreds of Thousands Attend Funeral of Iran Dissident Cleric

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By Reuters and Haaretz Services

The reformist Jaras website reported on Monday that hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral ceremony for Iran's top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. "The present crowd in the procession has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of people and they were also shouting slogans in his support and also in support of [opposition leader] Mir Hossein Mousavi," Jaras said. Earlier Monday, the reformist Kaleme website reported that Iranian security forces stopped a bus carrying opposition supporters on their way to the funeral of the country's leading dissident cleric and arrested some of them. Kaleme said the incident occurred in Tehran late on Sunday. The funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was scheduled to take place in the holy city of Qom, about 125 km (80 miles) south of Tehran, on Monday morning. The website added that Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi arrived in Qom to take part in the funeral of the dissident cleric. Kaleme said other leading reformist figures were also on their way to Qom for the funeral, which analysts believe could become a rallying point for the moderate opposition in Iran. On Sunday, a different reformist website reported that a pro-reform Iranian cleric was detained on his way to Montazeri's funeral ceremony.

The Jaras site said Ahmad Qabel was detained after leaving the northeastern city of Mashhad with friends and family for Qom. Also on Sunday, Iran's opposition leaders urged their supporters to attend Montazeri's funeral and announced a day of national mourning, a reformist website reported. "We [Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi] announce Monday a day of national mourning ... and call on people to attend the Grand Ayatollah's funeral ceremony on Monday," the Jaras website quoted a statement issued by the opposition leaders as saying. Montazeri was an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution who fell out with the present leadership and was under house arrest for some years. "Hossein Ali Montazeri passed away in his home last night," the official IRNA news agency said in a report that did not mention his title. He lived in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, south of Tehran. In August, he described the clerical establishment as a "dictatorship", saying the authorities' handling of street unrest following a disputed presidential election in June "could lead to the fall of the regime.