x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tehran protest starts

A new protest rally starts in Tehran, with thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi turning out.

Thousands of supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi held a new protest rally in Tehran today, keeping up the pressure on the Islamic regime over the disputed vote, witnesses said. Chanting "Peace be upon (Prophet) Mohammed and his family", the protesters marched in southern Tehran and were expected to be joined by Mr Mousavi, the witnesses said. The rally was also to mourn demonstrators slain in clashes during six days of protests ? banned by the authorities. Foreign journalists are also barred from attending the rallies or other events without express authority.

State radio has reported seven deaths in the clashes since the June 12 election returned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Electoral watchdog the Guardians Council said it had received a total of 646 complaints of irregularities in last Friday's election from the three defeated candidates. It said it had invited the trio to set out their grievances on Saturday, with a decision on Sunday about any possible recount.

Despite the crackdown, Mr Mousavi had called on his supporters to take to the streets again today, dressed in black in a sign of mourning. Tens of thousands of people had joined what was billed as a "silent" protest rally yesterday, wearing green wristbands and headbands, the colour of Mr Mousavi's campaign, and carrying banners accusing Mr Ahmadinejad of having "stolen" their votes in the poll, witnesses said.

State television broadcast brief footage of that rally, which was staged despite an official ban on all unauthorised gatherings. The Etemad Melli (National Confidence) party of defeated reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi has applied for permission to hold a new protest rally on Saturday. Besides the seven reported deaths, many more have been wounded in the worst violence for at least a decade, with protests reported in Tehran and other major cities.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini said he would consider a partial recount after Mr Ahmadinejad's defeated challengers lodged formal complaints of vote-rigging. But Mr Mousavi is insisting that the result of what he has described as a "shameful fraud" be annulled and a new vote called. * AFP