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Latest update : 2009-12-29

Iranian rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (pictured) has announced that her sister was one of those arrested on Monday along with scores of opposition figures, political activists and journalists.

AFP - Iran's conservative parliament called for maximum punishment of opposition demonstrators Tuesday as the regime stepped up its crackdown on dissent.

Iran arrested the sister of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi as well as journalists and activists, reports said, after eight people were killed in protests on Sunday during Shiite rituals for Ashura.

"Parliament wants the judiciary and intelligence bodies to arrest those who insult religion and impose the maximum punishment on them without reservation," said the statement read out by parliament speaker Ali Larijani on television.

The conservative-dominated parliament condemned "disgusting comments" by Western governments about Sunday's unrest, after they unanimously denounced the Islamic regime's deadly crackdown on protesters.

The MPs accused the protesters, who poured onto the streets in fresh anti-government demonstrations, of being "anti-religion" and "counter-revolutionaries."

But they took a softer stance towards opposition leaders, who reject President Mahmoud Ahmadienjad's June re-election as fraudulent, urging them to distance themselves from the protests.

"We expect these gentlemen who had complaints in the election to wake up and clearly separate their path from this wicked movement, not to come out and issue statements again and make the air dustier."

Eight people were killed as security forces used teargas, batons and eventually live rounds to push back thousands who had taken to the streets.

The nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi -- Ahmadinejad's main challenger in the disputed June election -- was also shot dead in the demonstration.

US President Barack Obama demanded on Monday that Iran free those protesters it had detained and told the opposition that history was on its side.

"The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens," Obama said in Hawaii where he is on holiday.

The MPs hit out at Obama over his "statement in favour of this group which committed anti-religion acts on Ashura" and said it was reminiscent of his predecessor George W. Bush.

"Such praise disgraces you and causes the system to act more firmly," the statement said.

Iran rounded up scores of opposition figures, political activists and journalists on Monday and Ebadi said on Tuesday that intelligence agents had arrested her sister.

"My sister Dr Nooshin Ebadi was arrested at 9 pm (1630 GMT) on December 28 by four intelligence agents at her home and sent to prison," Ebadi said in a statement carried by the Rahesabz opposition website.

"I am not aware of the place of her detention or the reason for her arrest," she said, describing her sister as a professor of medicine.

Ebadi, who left Iran a day before the June 12 poll, has been urging the international community to act against what she sees as human rights violations by the Islamic regime since the election.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her legal work championing human rights in Iran.

Three journalists and a women's rights campaigner have also been arrested, reports said on Tuesday.

Prominent reformist journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin was arrested at his home on Tuesday morning, Rahesabz said.

"Six young men in plainclothes entered his house with a blank warrant, he resisted and asked for one with a name," the website said.

"But an hour later, four older men showed up and threatened to take him forcibly if he did not go with them."

Date created : 2009-12-29

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