Ten dead – but Mousavi says the fight goes on

Crackdown intensifies with five members of former president's family arrested.

David Usborne
Monday 22 June 2009 00:00

Unrepentant after assaults by its own security henchmen claimed the lives of at least 10 more demonstrators on Saturday, the authorities in Iran yesterday blamed "terrorists" and rioters for the fresh unrest, giving every indication that the brutal crackdown there will continue and possibly intensify.

After the violence of the day before, Tehran was quiet until yesterday evening, when unexplained gunfire was heard in the capital. After dark, some residents of Tehran were heard once again taking to their roofs to chant "Death to the Dictator" and "Allahu akbar", as a refrain of defiance.

Tensions had simmered all day as the regime said it had arrested late Saturday five members of the family of ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani, still a man with deep influence, including his daughter.

Mirhossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate whom the authorities insist was the loser in the 12 June election, called for restraint but insisted protests should continue, and warned that "mass arrests of people will create a rift between the society and the country's armed forces." Renewed anger was also being voiced by pro-reform clerics, offering further evidence of splits in the clerical ranks.

Mr Mousavi has remained immovable in his demand for a re-run of the election. But the regime and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, deny all accusations of vote rigging and continue to stand by the official winner, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Last night Mr Mousavi said on his website: "Protesting against lies and fraud [in the election] is your right." He added: "In your protests continue to show restraint. I am expecting the armed forces to avoid irreversible damage," he added.

Reporting from Iran remained difficult, with severe limitations still in place on foreign media and increasing efforts by the authorities to crimp communication with the outside world, whether via phone or the internet. The BBC said its Tehran reporter, John Lyne, had been forced to leave, and Reporters Without Borders said 23 journalists have been arrested since the election results just over a week ago – including the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists. Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari was also arrested yesterday.

"The climate of fear has cast a shadow over the whole situation," said Drewery Dyke, chief Iran researcher at Amnesty International.

"In the 10 years I've been following this country, I've never felt more at sea than I do now. It's just cut off." In New York, the International Campaign for Human Rights said it had received reports of scores of people who were injured in Saturday's clashes being arrested by security forces the moment they turned up at hospital. Reports indicated at least 100 were badly hurt.

While state radio put Saturday's death toll at 10, another Iranian outlet said 13 died. Either way, the regime quickly deflected the blame.

"In the unrest leading to clashes, 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded," said a report on state radio, which reflects the regime's views. "The presence of terrorists ... in yesterday's event in Enghelab and Azadi avenues was tangible."

In spite of Iran's attempts to block them, images of the renewed violence showing black-clad security officers wielding truncheons, water cannons and tear gas, flooded out from Iran on Saturday to computer screens and televisions around the world. Footage appeared to show demonstrators dying on the streets, although such pictures are impossible to verify.

Facing renewed condemnation for the killings, Tehran lashed out at France for "treacherous and unjust approaches". The parliament's speaker, Ali Larijani, said statements from France, Germany and Britain had been "shameful", and relations with all three countries should be reconsidered. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, publicly pushed for a vote recount.

But Britain came in for the sharpest attack for alleged interference, in a statement by Iran's Foreign Minister, Manoucher Mottaki.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, denied charges of "meddling" in Iran's affairs.

Mr Mottaki said officials were examining charges of voter fraud. But he seemed already to have prejudged the outcome, insisting that the "possibility of organised and comprehensive disruption and irregularities in the election is almost close to zero".

The move against Mr Rafsanjani, who remains at the head of two important state councils, seemed especially ominous. Those arrested included his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, who addressed hundreds of Mousavi supporters last week.

If the arrests indicated a growing nervousness inside the regime, it may equally be alarmed by a growing rumble of discontent from other clerical figures. "Resisting people's demand is religiously prohibited," insisted Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior dissident cleric.

Mohammad Khatami, also a former president, said: "Preventing people from expressing their demands through civil ways will have dangerous consequences."

Online protests: Harrowing footage

*After the crackdown, protesters continued to make their voices heard online yesterday. One especially harrowing video was at the centre of the outrage. The footage shows a young woman who has been shot in the chest. A pool of blood flows out from under her black veil; people rush to her aid, but within seconds she is dead. Already yesterday, the victim was being referred to as "Neda" – "The Call", or "The Voice" – and seen as a martyr to the opposition's cause.

The catalogue of videos: www.independent.co.uk/minorityreport

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