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Police fire tear gas on Iranian protesters

Wednesday March 02, 2011 08:26:16 AM, DPA

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Tehran/Berlin: Police fired tear gas on crowds of demonstrators in Tehran Tuesday, as fresh protests got underway against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, opposition websites and witnesses reported.

Thousands of people gathered in several parts of Tehran to protest the alleged imprisonment of two main opposition leaders - Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and their wives, Zahra Ranhavard and Fatemeh Karroubi - in the Heshmatieh military prison in eastern Tehran.

Witnesses say that there have been clashes between protesters and police and anti-riot forces near Tehran university, in central Tehran, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

According to the reports, police and anti-riot police have been deployed in several Tehran districts, especially in the Seyed Khandan district, where the Heshmatieh military prison is located.

The protesters reportedly shouted slogans in favour of Moussavi and Karroubi. They also shouted Allah'o Akbar (God is Great), and "Death to the Dictator".

Opposition websites reported that after the number of protesters has increased, especially in Seyed Kahndan and near the Tehran university, police, security and anti-riot forces started to beat them with electric batons.

Unconfirmed reports said shots were heard in several districts. There was no initial news of any casualties.

The opposition websites further reported that protests were also held in several other Iranian cities, including the religious city of Mashad.

Witnesses say that dozens of demonstrators in Tehran were arrested by police. Also in Mashad at least ten people were reportedly arrested.

Several students in Tehran have boycotted their classes to attend the protests.

Opposition websites had Monday reported the prison transfers of Moussavi and Karroubi, who have been under house arrest for nearly two weeks.

SBut state media quoted the state prosecutor general as rejecting the report. The office said the Moussavi and Karroubi were only under house arrest.

But the families of the two leaders insisted that the two were not at their residences and had definitely been transferred to Heshmatieh prison. They said that, if the men were not jailed, then the official should allow them to visit the pair wherever they were being kept.

Foreign media has once again been prohibited from directly covering the unrest, making it impossible to verify the reports from opposition sites.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called on the West "to listen to the voice of the majority, rather than a few of them".

"These are internal affairs and no country has and will have any right to interfere in the decisions by the judiciary," Mehmanparast said.

The German and US governments Monday criticised Iran over the arrest of the two opposition politicians, saying the detentions violate their fundamental human rights.

The Iranian opposition said Monday that its protests would continue until the release of its leaders. More are scheduled for March 15.





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