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Tens of thousands turn out for anti-opposition rally
Tens of thousands of regime supporters gathered in Tehran on Friday, calling for the deaths of Iranian opposition figures. A fresh wave of anti-government protests erupted earlier this week, leaving two dead in clashes with police.
AFP - Tens of thousands of regime loyalists poured on to the streets of Tehran Friday to demand that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi be hanged for their "rebellion."
"Death to Mousavi! Death to Karroubi! Mousavi, Karroubi should be hanged!" worshippers chanted as they emerged from Friday prayers at Tehran University to join crowds of loyalists marching towards prominent Enghelab Square (Revolution Square.)
In his Friday prayer sermon, hardline cleric and head of the powerful Guardians Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, demanded total isolation of Mousavi and Karroubi as worshippers chanted "American servants, shame on you!"
Janati said the judiciary must "cut access (of Mousavi and Karroubi) with the people completely, the doors of their homes must be shut... so that they can't receive and give messages, their phones... Internet must be cut and they be imprisoned in their homes."
The two leaders are already under de facto house arrest but have regularly managed to issue statements to their supporters which have freshly fuelled unrest in Tehran.
On Wednesday, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani issued a stern warning to the two men.
"The treason committed by the movement of sedition leaders is not hidden from anyone," Larijani said.
"This group which has rebelled against the religious government should know that while maintaining Islamic compassion we will not tolerate the establishment being compromised."
"They (the people) should be certain that we will block the mechanism through which the sedition leaders issue their statements," he said.
The pro-regime rally on Friday aims to "scream out ...hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movement of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin (hypocrites) and monarchist allies," said the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which called the march.
The Tehran Friday Prayer Committee said the rally "will condemn the treacherous and disgraceful actions of opposition heads and their agents," the state television website reported.
The latest outburst against the two leaders erupted after an anti-government protest on Monday which they called under the pretext of showing solidarity to Arab uprisings.
That rally, banned by authorities, turned into deadly clashes between protesters and riot police in which two people were killed and several wounded, including nine members of security forces, reports said.
The protests were the first since February 11 last year, when Iran was marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
That demonstration, like others which erupted in the wake of the disputed June 2009 presidential election, was crushed by security forces and militiamen.
The supporters of Mousavi and Karroubi remain defiant and have called for nation-wide rallies Sunday to mourn the deaths of the two slain in Monday's protests by mobilising supporters through the Internet.
The Sunday rallies are also intended to show "decisive support" to Mousavi and Karroubi for "continuing on the difficult path of freedom and human dignity," the Council for Coordination of the Green Movement Hope said in a statement on Kaleme.com and Sahamnews.org, websites of Mousavi and Karroubi.
Dozens of people were killed, scores wounded and thousands arrested when authorities cracked down on anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in 2009, leading them to adopt, until Monday, a much lower profile.
Mousavi and Karroubi, who lost to him in the poll, maintain that Ahmadinejad was fraudulently re-elected and since then have opposed his presidency.
On Wednesday, Karroubi and Mousavi issued Internet statements in which the former said he was "ready to pay any price", while Mousavi stated that Monday's protests were a "glorious achievement."