Iran's police chase protesters on vote anniversary

AP News
Posted: Jun 12, 2011 2:00 PM
Iran's police chase protesters on vote anniversary

Iranian police swinging clubs chased protesters and made arrests Sunday to disperse hundreds of people who gathered in the capital to mark the second anniversary of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, the opposition said.

Claims of fraud in the June 2009 election sent waves of protesters into streets around the nation for months, triggering a deadly crackdown and mass trials of activists and pro-reform politicians. The movement grew into the most serious challenge to Iran's ruling system since its birth in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but it was largely swept from the streets after half a year and has failed to regain momentum.

The opposition website said police wielding clubs tried to disperse protesters in one location of the capital, but there were few details.

It said police detained many of the protesters and authorities ordered shops and public places like movie theaters to close early to prevent more crowds from gathering. The reports could not be verified independently since Iran's government has banned foreign media from covering opposition activities.

Authorities deployed hundreds of police to the main streets of Tehran, witnesses said.

Opposition activists based outside the country had called for a silent march on the second anniversary of the election.

Also Sunday, said a jailed opposition activist, Hoda Saber, died of heart failure after a week on a hunger strike. Fellow activists gathered Sunday in front of the hospital where he died.

Saber was also a journalist and a member of the Religious Nationalist Alliance, which seeks peaceful political reform within the Islamic establishment.

He had been imprisoned since August 2010 and recently began a hunger strike to protest the death of another activist, Haleh Sahabi, who also died of heart problems after a scuffle with security officers during her father's funeral earlier this month.

The U.S. State Department condemned Sahabi's death and said it was the result of "reprehensible actions" by Iranian security forces.

Saber was taken to a hospital on Friday and died late Saturday.

Authorities detained Saber after Ahmadinejad's re-election along with many journalists, activists and opposition figures.