x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Iran government calls for 'hate the opposition' rally on Friday

Call for mass rally comes as clashes erupt at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests on Monday.

TEHRAN // Iran's regime said it called a rally in Tehran for Friday to express "hatred" against the opposition movement, as its two key leaders launched fresh anti-government tirades despite demands that they be hanged.

Today's call for the mass rally came as clashes erupted between regime backers and "apparent" supporters of the opposition at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests on Monday.

The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises regime-backed programmes, said today: "The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence."

It said those joining the rally will "scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their monafeghin [hypocrites] and their monarchist allies."

The opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been in the firing line since they called a rally on Monday in support of Arab uprisings which quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations and ended in clashes that left two people dead and several wounded.

Both are under de facto house arrest and Karoubi's son, Hossein, said tosday, in a statement on his father's Sahamnews.org website, that "security forces are currently occupying my house after breaking into the building. They are searching my and my family's personal belongings."

Iranian officials accuse arch-foes the United States, Britain and Israel of influencing the opposition chiefs, but supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that their efforts will fail.

"When people are in the arena, it [the US] cannot do anything against the determined will [of the people]", he said, referring to the United States and indicating that Iran's Islamic regime had the strong support of masses.

Iran's prosecutor general, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, warned that action would be taken against Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi, a day after politicians supporting the Iranian government demanded that they be executed.

"The heads of seditions are the people who should be punished for their criminal acts and God willing actions in this regard are being taken," Mr Mohseni Ejeie said, according to the Fars news agency.

"People have given them their punishment, but people also have a legitimate right to demand [punishment] from the judiciary which we hope we would be able to fulfil."

The authorities were infuriated when thousands of anti-government protesters took to streets of Tehran on Monday, leading to clashes with riot-police.

Aside from the two deaths, officials reported several people injured, including nine members of the security forces.

The protests, the first anti-government demonstration since February 11 last year, took place despite Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi not being able to join them in the streets after their houses were blockaded by the security forces.

The two came out fighting ontoday, issuing statements slamming the authorities and praising demonstrators.

Mr Karroubi said in a statement posted on his website, he was ready to "pay any price."

"I declare that I am not afraid of any kind of threat and as a soldier of this great nation for the past almost 50 years, I am ready to pay any price," he said.

"I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples' wishes will last only for a certain time," he said.

Mr Mousavi, on his own website, Kaleme.com, praised the protesters for Monday's rally, which he said was "a great achievement for the great people of a great nation and for the Green Movement."

Tension sparked by Monday's protests continued to ripple today when reports said regime backers clashed with opposition supporters at the Tehran funeral.

"Students and people participating in the funeral of martyr Sane'e Zhale in Tehran Fine Arts University are clashing with a few apparently from the sedition movement," the state television website said.

Zhale, a Sunni Kurd, became the centre of a dispute in his death with regime-backers insisting he was member of the volunteer Islamist Basij militia, while the opposition said he came from their ranks.

Germany said today that the Iran crackdown on protests was "unacceptable" and that the "calls for freedom and human rights" of Iranian men and women were being heard in Germany and Europe.