Iranian protesters arrested

Laure Bretton
Friday 20 June 2003 00:00 BST

French police arrested Iranian exiles yesterday who were protesting for a second day over a round-up of their country's left-wing opposition leaders. As part of the protests, sympathisers in Switzerland and Italy set themselves on fire.

Police detained 62 followers of the Mujahedin Khalq at a protest at the Eiffel Tower. Police said the arrests were to prevent more self-immolations and the group was banned from protesting until further notice.

The protesters are angry at the arrest of their leader, Maryam Rajavi, who heads the group's political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in a raid on their base at Val d'Oise, north of Paris, on Tuesday. Police rounded up 159 members, seizing computers, files and cash.

The French government suspects the exiled group of planning attacks on Iranian embassies in Europe - a suggestion dismissed by the NCRI as "ridiculous and fabricated".

In Paris on Wednesday, three protesters set themselves on fire, one of whom died. Another protester set himself on fire in London. Yesterday two people set themselves alight outside the French embassy in Rome, and a third in the Swiss capital, Berne. Ms Rajavi urged supporters yesterday to desist from further self-immolations.

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