Crowds attack home of Iranian opposition leader

Pro-government militiamen attacked the home of an Iranian opposition leader with homemade bombs and beat one of his bodyguards unconscious, an opposition website reported, in an apparent attempt to keep him from attending a key rally today.

Mahdi Karroubi's guards had to fire gunshots in the air to clear crowds that broke down the door of his home on Thursday night after days of gatherings outside, said the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran's pro-reform movement.



The report said the attackers were members of the plainclothes Basij militia that led the crackdown on the protests that swept the country in response to allegations of fraud in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election. Karroubi was one of the pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad.



Crowds again encircled Karroubi's residence on Friday, as Iranians filled a central Tehran square for the annual state-sponsored rally known as Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day.



The government uses the occasion as an anti-Israel outpouring and to show its support for the Palestinians. But last year, Karroubi and other opposition leaders used the day to gather tens of thousands of their own supporters into the streets, and violent clashes broke out with security forces.



Crowds of hard-line protesters have gathered at the gate of his building for several days, apparently because they believed he would try to attend the rally again this year, though none of the opposition leaders has called for demonstrations.



Karroubi's son, Hossein, told The Associated Press Friday that dozens of hard-liners were continuing to damage the opposition leader's home and that police were not responding to the scene.



President Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, addressed the Tehran rally, saying Israel and its supporters are too weak to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.



Israel, the United States and other nations believe Iran intends to develop atomic weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear power program. Iran denies that, saying its nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes.



Gatherings for Quds Day were also held in other cities around the country.



Karroubi, a cleric, and Mir Hossein Mousavi were the two pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad in 2009. Mousavi claims he won the election but that it was stolen from him through massive fraud.



On Friday, Mousavi condemned the attack on Karroubi's home, saying it proved the government's "enmity against Israel is an excuse" for attacking opposition figures. "Karroubi and figures like him and other freedom-seekers are the real enemies of authoritarians."



On Thursday, Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia told the semi-official Fars news agency that police forces would be deployed in several parts of Tehran to maintain security during the rallies.



The opposition has not held any street demonstrations since February and canceled plans for a rally on the anniversary of the election.



Since the vote, authorities have detained thousands and tried scores on charges of fomenting postelection unrest. More than 80 of them were sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years. Ten were sentenced to death, and their cases are being appealed.

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