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Iran Raises Its Tally of Arrested Protesters

June 28, 2003|From Reuters

TEHRAN — Iran said Friday that more than 4,000 people, including hundreds of students, had been arrested during protests this month against Islamic clerical rule, a much higher figure than originally given.

Analysts said the new number provided by Iran's chief prosecutor, Ayatollah Abdonnabi Namazi, suggested that the protests were larger than authorities had acknowledged.

The demonstrations started in Tehran about three weeks ago. Hundreds of university students were joined each night by a few thousand other Iranians who chanted slogans against the nation's clerical rulers and called for greater democracy and fewer restrictions.

The protests, which included harsh criticism of moderate President Mohammad Khatami as well as the conservative clerics who have blocked his attempts at reform, spread to more than half a dozen other cities.

But they were soon quashed by riot police and hard-line vigilantes armed with batons and chains who are fiercely loyal to conservative clerics.

Namazi said that more than 4,000 people had been detained, with about 40% released quickly. The remainder, including 800 students in Tehran, remained in custody.

Scores of student activists have been arrested in recent days, even after the protests had dissipated, in an apparent attempt to prevent students from marking the anniversary of an Islamic vigilante attack on a Tehran University dormitory on July 9, 1999.

Officials vow to stop any student commemorations of the attack, which sparked the worst street unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tehran's prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi, said 50 of those being held in the capital were ready for trial.

The prosecutor said the judiciary was also investigating whether some government officials had encouraged students to protest.

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