Friday, January 1, 2010

Troops Reportedly Move into Tehran Ahead of Opposition Rally

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An Iranian opposition website said on Thursday the government was moving troops and armored military vehicles to the capital on the day supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi planned to hold a rally. "Hundreds of military forces and tens of armoured vehicles ... are moving towards Tehran. Some of the vehicles are used for suppressing street riots," the Jaras website said. The report could not be confirmed independently by Reuters. Jaras also said security forces had a heavy presence in various Tehran squares ahead of the planned opposition rally. Also on Thursday, Iran's state prosecutor has warned top opposition leaders they could face trial if they fail to denounce this week's anti-government protests. The prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, says the opposition figures could also face charges of supporting apostates in defiance of God over street clashes on Sunday, a sacred Shiite Muslim observance day. Ejehei's comments, published in state-owned Iran newspaper on Thursday, raise concerns for the opposition leaders.

There have also been calls for their execution as Iran's internal strife grows more bitter. A group of government supporters, wearing white funeral shrouds to symbolize a willingness to die in defense of the clerical rulers, staged a rally in southern Tehran on Thursday and gathered outside the offices of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, state radio reported.Iran's police chief warned supporters of Mousavi on Wednesday of harsh treatment if they joined illegal anti-government rallies. In Iran's bloodiest unrest since the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election, eight people were killed on Sunday and at least 20 pro-reform figures, including three senior advisers to Mousavi, were arrested. The government reacted by organising demonstrations, starting on Monday, in which hundreds of thousands of people took part. Demonstrators called for the execution of the opposition leaders, Mousavi and moderate defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi. Concern over political unrest in Iran helped push oil prices briefly above e79 a barrel to fresh five-week highs on Tuesday and they held near that level on Wednesday.