A demonstrator has been shot dead and several others seriously wounded at mass anti-Ahmadinejad protest in central Tehran, says press photographer.
Shots fired at Iran protest
TEHRAN, IRAN // A demonstrator has been shot dead after hundreds of thousands of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad protesters massed in central Tehran to cheer their pro-reform leader on in his first public appearance since the elections. A group of demonstrators with fuel canisters attempted to set fire to the compound of a volunteer militia linked to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard as the crowd dispersed from Azadi (Freedom) square, after dark. As some attempted to storm the building, people inside could be seen firing directly at the demonstrators at the northern edge of the square, away from the heart of the demonstration. An Associated Press photographer saw one person fatally shot and several others who appeared to be seriously wounded. The chanting demonstrators had defied an interior ministry ban and streamed into central Tehran - an outpouring for reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi that swollen as more poured from buildings and side streets. The massive show of protest followed a decision by Iran's most powerful figure for an investigation into the vote-rigging allegations. The chanting crowd - many wearing the trademark green colour of Mr Mousavi's campaign - was more than nine kilometres long. Security forces watched quietly, with shields and batons at their sides. Mr Mousavi, who talked through a portable loudspeaker, paused on the edge of the square - where Mr Ahmadinejad made his first post-election speech. The crowd roared back: "Long live Mousavi." Marchers held signs proclaiming, "We want our vote!" and raised their fingers in a V-for-victory salute. "We want our president, not the one who was forced on us," said 28-year-old Sara. The demonstration lasted several hours before the crowd began to disperse and violence erupted. Hours earlier, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayid Ali Khamenei, directed one of Iran's most influential bodies, the guardian council, to examine the claims. But the move by Mr Khamenei had no guarantee it would satisfy those challenging Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election or quell days of rioting after Friday's election that left parts of Tehran scarred by flames and shattered store fronts. The 12-member guardian council, made up of clerics and experts in Islamic law and closely allied to Mr Khamenei, must certify election results and has the apparent authority to nullify an election. But it would be an unprecedented step. Claims of voting irregularities went before the council after Mr Ahmadinejad's upset victory in 2005, but there was no official word on the outcome of the investigation and the vote stood. More likely, the dramatic intervention by Mr Khamenei could be an attempt to buy time in hopes of reducing the anti-Ahmadinejad anger. The prospect of spiraling protests and clashes is the ultimate nightmare for the Islamic establishment, which could be forced into back-and-forth confrontations and risks having the dissidents move past the elected officials and directly target the ruling theocracy. *AP