Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Iran isolates opposition as police deploy

AFP, TEHRAN

Thousands of Iranian protesters yesterday attempted to stage scattered demonstrations in Tehran said to be in support of Arab revolts as scores of policemen moved to disperse them, witnesses said.

A witness said crowds of protesters were seen at Tehran’s key areas such as Haft-e Tir Square, Karim Khan Avenue, Ferdowsi Square and Hafez Street, while another said similar crowds were walking from Imam Hussein Square to Enghelab Square.

“They are being silent and trying to keep a low profile,” a witness said about demonstrators walking from Imam Hussein Square to Enghelab.

Another witness said about 1,000 policemen were deployed at Haft-e Tir Square, Karim Khan Avenue, Ferdowsi Square and Hafez.

“Some policemen are chasing the protesters away in order to disperse them,” he said.

However, protesters and security forces clashed in a main Tehran square, al-Arabiya television reported in an on-screen news bulletin without giving further details. About 1,000 anti-riot policemen were also deployed in and around Imam Hussein Square, a witness said.

Witnesses said anti-riot police on motorbikes armed with riot shotguns, tear gas, batons, paintball guns and fire extinguishers were deployed in parts of the -capital to prevent gatherings, which could turn into anti-government demonstrations.

Iran yesterday blocked access to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi’s house to prevent him from attending a rally in support of Arab revolts.

Police blocked access to the house of Mousavi, who along with fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi had sought to hold a rally yesterday to express solidarity with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“Security forces have sent police vans and vehicles to the alley where the house of Mr Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard is located” in Tehran, Mousavi’s Web site Kaleme.com reported.

“From today, the police have blocked the alley where their house is located ... There is no possibility of coming and going” to the house, it said.

The report said all telephone lines at the house, including the mobile phone connections of Mousavi and his wife, have been severed.

Kaleme.com said the latest “illegal and restrictive measures and pressures were adopted to prevent Mousavi from taking part in a rally in support of the people of Tunisia and Egypt.”

Iran has backed the Arab uprisings, but the Iranian interior ministry refused to permit the opposition rally as officials believe it is a ploy to stage fresh anti--government -demonstrations as seen in 2009 after the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Despite the ministry’s refusal, several groups claiming to be linked to the opposition movement have said they would stage a rally later yesterday to support Arab uprisings.

Karroubi himself has been under de facto house arrest for almost a week with his family and relatives barred from visiting him.

The cleric’s Web site, Sahamnews.org, said yesterday that Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, was barred also from leaving the house.

The two leaders and their supporters remain steadfast in rejecting Ahmadinejad’s presidency, saying the hardliner was re-elected because of massive vote rigging.

Their protests in the immediate aftermath of the election brought hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran and other cities, shaking the pillars of the regime and dividing the nation’s elite clergy.

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