Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Official: Arrest Anti-Government Demonstrators

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Cable News Network (CNN)

An Iranian national security official has called for demonstrators to be arrested following deadly weekend anti-government protests in Tehran. Soon afterward, an opposition Web site reported a wave of arrests. "The undignified and disruptive behavior of the rioters is no longer tolerable for our people, since they have brought undignified behaviors to new heights by offending sanctities and values held dear in Islam and Iran," Naghavi Hosseini, a member of the Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told state-run IRNA. "The Nation's Judiciary must swiftly arrest the rioters who committed those crimes." An opposition Web site, NoroozNews, said government officials took several activists into custody Monday, including some close advisors to opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The government did not immediately respond to the report. Meanwhile, the death toll from Sunday's anti-government protests in Tehran stood at eight, the country's Supreme National Security Council said. With tight restrictions on international media, CNN could not independently verify the casualties that were reported Monday by state-run Press TV. The Press TV report did not say how many others were arrested. But earlier, Iran's Deputy Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said on state television station IRINN that more than 300 were taken into custody. Opposition Web site Rahesabz.net reported the arrests of at least three figures from the reformist movement and also noted that Tehran's text messaging system had slowed to a crawl with the outbreak in violence.

The toll was the result of clashes that broke out between demonstrators and security forces as large crowds gathered for Ashura, a major religious observance. Radan said those killed included one person who fell off a bridge and two others who were killed in a car accident during the protests. One of the victims was killed by a bullet, Radan said. But "considering the fact that the police did not use firearms, this incident is extremely suspicious, and is being investigated," he added. Mousavi's Web site reported that his nephew, Seyed Ali Mousavi, was killed in the demonstrations by a shot to the heart. Press TV late Sunday quoted unnamed police officials as identifying one of the dead as "Seyyed Ali Mousavi" but it did not mention the elder Mousavi or any relationship between the two men. Tehran Police Chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh denied that any protesters were killed by security forces. Police did not fire any shots in Tehran, "and security forces were not in possession of firearms," Rajabzadeh told the semi-official news agency ISNA. Since the disputed presidential elections in June, protesters have turned public gatherings into rallies against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the overwhelming winner of the race. The unrest Sunday followed day-long clashes between the two sides in the streets of Tehran on Saturday. On Saturday evening, a pro-government mob barged into a mosque where former president and reformist leader Mohammad Khatami was speaking. The dozens-strong group forced Khatami to end his remarks abruptly when it interrupted the gathering at Jamaran mosque.