Clashes reported in Iran funeral - UPDATED

Iranian govt supporters and pro-opposition people clashed in Tehran during a funeral.

Clashes reported in Iran funeral - UPDATED

Supporters and opponents of the Iranian government clashed on Wednesday at a funeral for a student shot dead during an opposition rally whose allegiance has been claimed by both sides, state media reported.

State television showed thousands of government supporters at Tehran University for the funeral of Sanee Zhaleh, one of two people shot dead on Monday during the first opposition rally for more than a year. Each side blames the other for the killings.

"Students and the people attending the funeral ceremony of the martyred student Sanee Zhaleh have clashed with a limited number of people, apparently linked to the sedition movement, and forced them out by chanting slogans of death to hypocrites," said the website of the state broadcaster IRIB.

The semi-official Fars news agency said Zhaleh had been a member of the Basij, the volunteer militia connected to the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps which played an important role in suppressing protests in 2009.

Opposition websites did not deny that Zhaleh was a member of the Basij, which has millions of members throughout Iran, but said he attended Monday's rally -- the first reformist protest in more than a year -- as an active opposition supporter.

"University occupied by the military -- martyr's body carried on the shoulders of murderers," read a headline on opposition website Kaleme after Zhaleh's coffin, draped in the Iranian flag, was carried through the streets as the crowd chanted "I will kill the person who killed my brother" and other slogans against leaders of the opposition.

Fars said the funeral had been organised by student Basijis.

The Kaleme website said the university's arts faculty, where the 26-year-old was a student, was "occupied" from early morning. It said several people were attacked and a large number arrested.

"The martyr's fellow students were standing against the walls watching a large crowd of strangers who had entered the university," Kaleme quoted Sajjad Rezaie, head of the faculty's Islamic Association, as saying.

Second person dies

The fight for the soul of Zhaleh mirrors the struggle to claim allegiance with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which the government says is an extension of Iran's own 1979 Islamic Revolution against the Western-backed shah, but which the Green movement says was inspired by its own protests.

Monday's rally was the first to be held by the Green movement since huge protests in the weeks and months after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election were stamped out by the government which blamed foreign enemies for stirring "sedition".

Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi hailed the rally as a "glorious" event by a "magnificent movement". Reformist websites said an estimated 1,500 people had been arrested.

Tehran's deputy police chief Ahmadreza Radan said only about 150 people turned up. A second person died of gunshot wounds on Tuesday and a further eight people who had been shot were being treated in hospital, he was quoted as saying by Fars.

By Wednesday there were tributes to Zhaleh and the other victim, 22-year-old Mohammad Mokhtari, on the social media website Facebook, hailing both as victims of state brutality.

Authorities have blamed "terrorist" elements for the violence at Monday's unauthorised rally. A large majority in parliament signed a motion for the opposition leaders, who both say they are living under virtual house arrest, to be tried, calling them "corrupts on earth".

Being "corrupt on earth" is a charge which has been levelled at political dissidents in the past. It is a capital offence.

After the funeral procession, government supporters headed towards the Justice Ministry to hold a demonstration calling for their swift prosecution, and in the holy city of Qom, senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said of the opposition leaders: "This nation has defeated the shah -- you are the petty leftovers, you are nothing."

"Our people like their system that is why they do not do anything illegal, but if their tolerance ends, the seditionists will not be alive even for one day (more)," Khatami said in an address broadcast live on state television.

Agencies

Last Mod: 16 Şubat 2011, 15:44
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