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Iran police arrest mourners in cemetery memorial
Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:34am EDT
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By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian police arrested mourners who gathered at a Tehran cemetery to commemorate victims of the unrest that followed the country's disputed June presidential election, witnesses said on Thursday.
The police forced Mirhossein Mousavi, a defeated candidate at the election, to leave the cemetery.
"Hundreds have gathered around Neda Agha-Soltan's grave to mourn her death and other victims' deaths ... police arrested some of them ... dozens of riot police also arrived and are trying to disperse the crowd," a witness told Reuters.
The witness saw police detaining three mourners. Officials were not available to comment on the number of detainees.
Later the witness said: "Police forced Mousavi to return to his car and leave the cemetery. Police also are warning mourners to leave the place or face the consequences."
"Mourners are leaving in small groups," said the witness.
Defeated candidates Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi had said they would attend the ceremony, said Ghalamnews, Mousavi's website, defying a threat by Revolutionary Guards to break up the gathering.
When Mousavi arrived at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, mourners clung to his car, chanting 'Mousavi we support you', the witness said.
The presidential vote plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite. Mousavi and Karoubi say the June 12 vote was rigged in favor of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mousavi and Karoubi had accepted the invitation of Neda's mother to mark the 40th day since her death and remember other victims of the unrest at Neda's grave.
Neda, a 26-year-old music student, was shot on June 20, when supporters of Mousavi clashed with riot police and Basij militiamen in Tehran. Footage of her death has been watched by thousands on the Internet.
Authorities have said Neda was not shot by a bullet used by Iranian security forces, suggesting the incident was staged to blacken the image of the clerical establishment.
Iranian media have reported the deaths of several other protesters following the vote. Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers, have been detained since the election.
The head of Tehran's Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Abdollah Araghi, had warned against any gathering.
"We are not joking. We will confront those who want to fight against the clerical establishment," said Araghi, according to the semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday. Continued...
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