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Crackdown on Iranian protesters ‘intensifying’

Tens of thousands of people joined a rally in Tehran to remember protesters who were killed while opposing Iran’s election results, amid unconfirmed reports that arrests and killings are on the rise across the country.

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Amnesty International claims around 15 protesters have been killed and hundreds more injured or arrested by security forces across Iran since Monday. State radio has reported seven deaths since the protests started.

Islamic rulers ‘now on the offensive’

Facing their biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution against the shah, Iran’s Islamic rulers have gone on the offensive. They arrested protesters and prominent reformists, tightened their grip on the media and lashed out at “meddling” by foreign foes, including the United States.

Besides the seven reported deaths, many more people have been wounded in the worst violence for at least a decade, with protests reported in provincial cities as well as Tehran.

Warning they would crush any “velvet revolution,” the authorities have rounded up scores of people, even former government officials.

Ebrahim Yazdi and Mohammad Tavasoli, veteran revolutionaries and leaders of Iran’s Liberation Movement were arrested on Wednesday, the Etemad Melli newspaper reported.

Unofficial reports said Yazdi was detained at a hospital emergency unit.

Political activists ‘arrested’

In addition to seven protesters killed in Tehran, three people are reported to have died in Oroumiye and Shiraz, Amnesty International says.

In Tabriz, north-western Iran, 17 political activists, including doctors and those affiliated to the Nehzat-e Azadi (Iran Freedom Movement) are reported to have been detained and taken to unspecified locations on Monday night after they staged a peaceful protest in the city’s Abresan Square.

Among those arrested was Doctor Ghaffari Farzadi, a leading member of the Iran Freedom Movement and a lecturer at Tabriz University, Amnesty International says.

Students appear to have been particularly targeted, the human rights organisation says.

Security forces reportedly entered dormitories at Tabriz University on Monday and detained 10 students who had been involved in demonstrations.

‘Two killed’ in north-western Iran

In the city of Oroumiye, also in north-western Iran, local media reported on Tuesday that two people had been killed and hundreds more detained after a crackdown on around 3,000 protesters in Imam Street.

In Shiraz, southern Iran, security forces used tear gas as they forced their way into a university library, Amnesty International says.

Reports say that several students were beaten and around 100 were detained. Unconfirmed reports suggest that one person may have been killed.

Students dormitories ‘targeted’

In the northern town of Babol, armed paramilitaries and plain-clothed officials are reported to have surrounded Babol University and targeted students in dormitories.

This scenario was repeated in other centres, the human rights organisation says.

In Mashhad, in the north-east, there were further reports of security forces attacking students and in Zahedan, in Iran’s southeast, two students are among at least three activists who have been detained.

Crackdown within the Iranian elite

In a sign of cracks emerging within the Iranian elite, several influential clerics spoke out about the election results and the subsequent crackdowns.

Ayatollah Mehdi Hadavi Tehrani called on Thursday for Interior Minister Sadeq Mahouli to be impeached.

Hundreds of poll violations cited

The latest rally came as the electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, said it was investigating 646 complaints of poll violations from Mousavi and the other two losing candidates.

The council also invited the trio to set out their grievances on Saturday, with a decision on Sunday about any possible recount in the June 12 election which returned hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Mousavi joined the crowds, most of whom were dressed in black as a mark of mourning for demonstrators killed in clashes during the protests, which have been banned by the authorities, witnesses said.

The crowds dispersed quietly about five hours later, witnesses said.

Foreign media barred

Foreign journalists have been barred from attending all rallies or other events without express authority.

Protesters carried pictures of Mousavi — who is demanding a new election — and placards bearing slogans such as “We have not had people killed to compromise and accept a doctored ballot box,” one witness said.

Mousavi appeared despite warnings from the hardline Basij militia, which has been at the forefront of action against protests, for defeated candidates to dissociate themselves from the “rioters.”

‘Western bombing plot’ on election day

Meanwhile state television reported that a plot with “extensive ties” to unnamed foreign interests had been uncovered to carry out bombings in Tehran on election day.

World powers have raised concern about the situation, particularly the violence and widespread arrests, with some European leaders publicly speaking of fraud and irregularities.

The Iranian mission to the European Union hit back on Thursday saying that foreign support for the opposition demonstrators “cannot be justified.”

On Wednesday, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Iran, to protest at what it called “interfering remarks” by US officials.

Protests in Paris

The media curbs prompted protests Thursday in Paris, where several dozen journalists and the press watchdog Reporters Without Borders staged a rally outside the Iranian embassy.

RSF secretary general, Jean-Francois Julliard, protested against Iran’s decision not to renew 10-day visas issued to visiting correspondents, which are due to expire in the coming days.

Brutal scenes of violence on the web

Pictures, videos and updates from Iran’s streets continue to pour in to social-networking and image-sharing websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube despite Iranian efforts to cut off mobile phones and the Internet.

Some jumpy amateur video footage broadcast on the Internet has shown chaotic and sometimes brutal scenes of violence, with police beating protesters.

One image purportedly showed a protester shot dead during Monday’s massive demonstrations.

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