December 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Iran holds bodies of five protesters

Eight top opposition figures detained
Christopher Torchia Associated Press
 
Tags:Iran

Alireza Beheshti, center, in a photo taken in June.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

CAIRO – Iranian authorities said Monday that they were holding the bodies of five slain anti-government protesters, including the nephew of the opposition leader, in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent activists from using their funerals as a platform for more demonstrations.

Pro-reform Web sites and activists said the government also detained at least eight prominent opposition figures – including a former foreign minister – in an intensified crackdown that could fuel more violence of the kind that engulfed the center of Tehran on Sunday.

The activity pushed the bitterly opposed camps beyond any immediate prospect of reconciliation or compromise.

Hardliners issued statements urging the country’s judiciary to take action against the opposition for violating Islamic principles and insulting the head of Iran’s religious leadership, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In the bloodiest protests in months, groups of emboldened demonstrators on Sunday chanted slogans against Khamenei, casting aside a taboo on personal criticism of the leader. In outbursts of fury rarely seen in past street confrontations, they burned squad cars and motorcycles belonging to security forces who had opened fire on the crowds, according to witness accounts, opposition Web sites and amateur videos posted on the Web.

IRNA, Iran’s state-run news agency, said the bodies of five protesters, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, were being held pending autopsies. The family of the nephew, Ali Mousavi, alleged that he was shot by security forces or government-backed militiamen, and his funeral would likely galvanize another outpouring of opposition anger.

Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be buried within 24 hours of death.

Iranian state television reported that eight people died in the violence in Tehran,. Television also cited the Health Ministry as saying 60 people were injured, and many had been treated and released from hospitals.

Iranian authorities have said 300 people were arrested in the protests, but did not specify where they were detained. The Parlemannews.ir site said three Mousavi aides were detained Monday, including top adviser Ali Riza Beheshti.

Security forces also arrested two people in a raid on a foundation run by the reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, a foundation official said on condition of anonymity because of fears of police reprisal.

Former Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi and human rights activist Emad Baghi were arrested, according to the Rah-e-Sabz Web site. One of his aides was also detained.

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