Iranians march against dissident

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The Independent Online
CROWDS marched in the Iranian city of Isfahan yesterday to denounce backers of a dissident Muslim cleric and support the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

State radio said demonstrators carried banners condemning supporters of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri as "internal elements of world arrogance [the West]". The radio did not report any clashes. Ayatollah Montazeri's supporters had urged people to chant slogans demanding freedom of speech and thought.

Ayatollah Montazeri was placed under house arrest and prevented from teaching after he questioned Ayatollah Khamenei's authority in a speech in November.

The radio said, without explaining, that the Isfahan prayers were led by a cleric other than Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, a moderate who usually leads Friday prayers. An ally of President Mohammad Khatami, he has criticised hardline Islamists for taking the law into their own hands.

Ayatollah Khomeini, the country's late spiritual leader, dismissed Ayatollah Montazeri as his designated successor shortly before his death in 1989. Ayatollah Montazeri had criticised government policies, including treatment of political prisoners.

- Reuters