x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Resistance beaten down in Iran

Days after opposition demonstrators took to the streets, a student accused of taking part is reportedly gunned down by security forces.

TEHRAN // The Iranian parliament's national security committee will investigate reports that security forces gunned down a student in the central city of Isfahan on Friday while trying to arrest him for his participation in an opposition protest rally on Wednesday. According to unverified reports cited by the Norooz news website, Mehdi Nilforoushzdeh, who was on a visit home from Armenia, where he was attending university, was shot when he and his family clashed with security forces in his father's home in Isfahan.

The counter-demonstrations were the opposition's first major show of force on Tehran's streets in nearly two months. The protests showed the determination of Iran's opposition to reassert its voice. But the latest marches drew far fewer demonstrators than in the weeks after the disputed presidential election on June 12, suggesting the relentless pressure by authorities could be taking a toll. "The parliament's national security committee will definitely follow up the matter if there is evidence of truth in the rumour," Hasan Sobhaninia, a member of the committee, was quoted as saying by Parlemannews, the official news website of the minority reformist faction of the parliament, known as Imam's Way Faction.

Mr Sobhaninia said the committee will follow up on all matters related to Wednesday's opposition rallies, which were held on the sidelines of the official anti-US rally to mark the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. He said the relevant authorities will be summoned to parliament for questioning if that is required. According to officials, 109 opposition demonstrators were arrested on November 4 for disturbing public order in Tehran, in rallies held by the supporters of defeated candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi.

Police had earlier warned opposition groups against holding rallies. "Forty-seven rioters have been released and 62 others were handed over to judicial authorities after case files were formed for them," Brig Gen Azizollah Rajabzadeh, police chief of greater Tehran, told reporters on Saturday. Of the 62 protesters still in custody 43 are men and 19 are women, Gen Rajabzadeh said. The Tehran revolutionary and public prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, was quoted by Mehr News Agency on Saturday as saying that detainees proven not guilty will "promptly be released".

All those arrested in Tehran on November 4 have been handed over to the Detention Facilities Organisation and are being held in Evin prison, according to Sohrab Soleimani, head of the organisation. He was speaking to Tabnak news portal in response to rumours that some of the detainees had been transferred to Khorvin prison, a detention facility for criminals in Varamin in southern Tehran. Thousands of the supporters of the so-called Green Movement - those who back Mr Mousavi and Mr Karrubi - took to the streets or protested inside university campuses on Wednesday in Tehran and other other cities, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Mashad and Arak.

Green Movement protesters chanted slogans against the government and threw stones at the security forces, who used batons and tear gas to disperse them. According to a report that appeared on Kalameh, the official website of the Mousavi campaign, Mr Mousavi was prevented from leaving the building of the Arts Academy, where he has worked since his term as prime minister ended in 1989, to attend the rally of his supporters by security forces that encircled the building.

Mr Karrubi made it to the rally, where security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters. One of Mr Karrubi's bodyguards was injured in the head and Mr Karrubi himself fell to the grounds after tear gas had been fired at them. The bodyguard had to be hospitalised, Tagheer, the official website of Mr Karrubi's campaign reported. Farhad Pouladi, an Iranian national working for Agence France-Presse who had also been detained on Wednesday morning by security personnel, was among those who were released in Tehran on Saturday. The Agence France-Presse office in Tehran confirmed Pouladi's release and his return home.

Pouladi was arrested by three security personnel while covering the annual rally. Foreign journalists and those working for the foreign press had been given permission only to cover the official rally, which was attended mostly by pro-government students and officials who chanted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans and set fire to US flags. Four foreign nationals - two Germans, a Canadian and a Danish citizen - were also arrested during the opposition rallies that spread throughout several areas in central parts of Tehran.

The German and Canadian nationals, whose identities have not been disclosed, have been released, according to Mr Dowlatabadi, the public prosecutor. However, Neils Kroghsgaard, a 31-year-old Danish journalism student who was freelancing in Iran for a project related to his studies, is still in custody. The Danish Embassy in Tehran was officially notified of his arrest by the Iranian authorities yesterday. The charges brought against him have not been announced.

msinaiee@thenational.ae With additional reporting by the Associated Press