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Middle east

Heavy police presence thwarts anti-regime protests

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-20

A large-scale deployment of riot police and Basij militias in the Iranian capital Tehran on Sunday thwarted opposition plans to stage anti-regime protests, although some opposition websites reported sporadic clashes between police and protesters.

AFP - A massive police deployment in Tehran prevented largescale protests on Sunday although Iranian opposition websites reported stray clashes even as officials said the capital remained calm.
              
Iran's Fars news agency, meanwhile, said Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was briefly arrested while "leading anti-revolutionaries and rioters" in Tehran.

Witnesses said a heavy deployment of riot police and Basij militiamen in key squares of Tehran such as Haft-e Tir ensured that anti-government protesters were unable to stage significant protests.
              
Tehran was the epicentre of deadly anti-government protests in 2009 after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election and also saw clashes on Monday during a demonstration in which two people were killed.
              
On Sunday, supporters of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had called for fresh demonstrations and tried to stage them, their websites said.
              
But police maintained that Tehran stayed calm.
              
"The situation in Tehran is normal and police has been deployed in Tehran ... There were no special problems security-wise," said Ahmad Reza Radan, the deputy chief of Iran's police force, quoted by ISNA news agency.
              

Tehran traffic police chief Hossein Rahimi gave a similar account, saying traffic was "heavy... but flowing" in the Iranian capital.
              
"Traffic was heavy on some roads due to the presence of police and special forces," Rahimi told state news agency IRNA. But no part of Tehran was closed off and traffic restrictions were not imposed.
              
Several opposition websites and witnesses, however, said scattered demonstrations were staged in Tehran and some even resulted in clashes between police and protesters.
              
"Police fired tear gas as a cat-and-mouse game (between police and demonstrators) began in Vali Asr Square" of Tehran, said the website Rahesabz.net, citing witnesses.
              
Crowds of demonstrators were also seen in other Tehran squares and some streets, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest), according to Karroubi's Sahamnews.org website.
              
Fars reported Rafsanjani's daughter was arrested in the capital but later released.
              
"Faezeh Hashemi, who was arrested as she led a number of anti-revolutionaries and rioters while claiming to purchase clothes in Vali Asr Street, has been released," the report said.
              
Earlier, Fars and state news agency IRNA reported Hashemi's arrest for "provocative behaviour."
              
She was "identified and arrested by police in Vali Asr street while intending to make harsh comments and chant provocative slogans and create a disturbance," IRNA said.
              
Rafsanjani himself has come under harsh criticism from conservatives who demand that he publicly condemn opposition leaders. The cleric and former two-time president had reportedly supported Mousavi in 2009 election.
              
Witnesses and opposition website Kaleme.com said men on motorbikes were riding around parts of Tehran "in a show of strength ... to intimidate people and prevent them from holding large gatherings."
              
According to Rahesabz.net, mobile phone networks in central Tehran were cut and Internet speed was "noticeably slow."
              
Sahamnews.org said anti-government gatherings were staged in the central city of Isfahan and Shiraz, southern Iran, while Fars said the situation was calm in Iran's second largest city, Mashhad in the northeast.
              
Foreign media have been banned from covering any opposition gatherings.
              
Sunday's stray gatherings took place after a call on Thursday made by Council for Coordination of Green Movement Hope -- a group owing allegiance to opposition leaders -- to commemorate the killings of two people in Tehran protests last week.
              
Those protests, which saw demonstrators clash with security forces, were the first since February 2010 when the authorities marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
              
Nine security personnel were injured in Monday clashes, officials and websites said.
              
Anti-government protests erupted in Iran after a June 2009 presidential poll in which Mousavi and Karroubi, both candidates, charged that the incumbent, hardliner Ahmadinejad, was re-elected through massive fraud.

 

Date created : 2011-02-20

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