Hundreds of thousands join protest rally in Tehran


Tehran : Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched towards Tehran University and the Iranian capital’s Enqelab (Revolution) Square Monday despite the interior ministry’s ban on the gathering, eyewitnesses said.

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“We had warned you, if you cheat, we make hell in this city,” the protestors who support opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi shouted. Moussavi also joined the rally but stayed in his car for security reasons.

Moussavi has accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the interior ministry of fraud in the presidential election, and insists that he was the rightful winner.

Large numbers of police and anti-riot forces were deployed at Enqelab Square and along nearby streets.

“Police, police, thank you,” the protestors shouted.

Witnesses said former president Mohammad Khatami and the moderate cleric Mehdi Karroubi were near Enqelab Square.

The demonstrators shouted “Moussavi, take our votes back”, and while addressing the Interior Ministry, “Cheating one percent, two percent, but not 53 percent.”

Ahmadinejad Saturday said the protests were not important and branded the protestors a bunch of hooligans whose football team had lost in a final game and who could not tolerate the defeat and let out their frustration.

“Ahmadi(nejad), here come the hooligans,” the protestors shouted Monday.

Moussavi had earlier called on his supporters not to stage the protest rally to avoid clashes with police.

The ministry had warned Moussavi about the consequences if the ban was ignored and the police chief told state television that his forces would decisively confront any group trying to cause public disorder.

Former reformist president Khatami has also joined the anti-Ahmadinejad camp and in his first reaction to the alleged election fraud, he said what happened in the election has damaged national trust.

The moderate cleric said the protest wave was the people’s right and confronting them with violence would not solve any of the current problems.

Khatami, however, called on the protesters to listen to Moussavi and keep their protests peaceful and within legal boundaries.

The Interior Ministry had earlier Monday declared the planned protest rally led by Moussavi as illegal, state-run radio reported.

Moussavi had invited his supporters for a peaceful rally that would start at Tehran University and end at Freedom Square where he also planned to give a speech.

In a statement, Moussavi condemned the ban, calling it an illegal act by the ministry.

He, however, called on his supporters not to stage any rally without permission in order to avoid “violence by violence-mongers”. The rally would be held as soon as the necessary permission was granted, he said.

He further called on his supporters to remain calm and avoid any confrontations with police and Ahmadinejad supporters.

According to the latest statement by Moussavi, he and moderate cleric Mehdi Karroubi, who was also a presidential candidate, would go to the scheduled starting point of the demonstration and inform the protestors about the postponement.

Meanwhile, the news network Khabar reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the Guardian Council – which is in charge for election violations – to carefully investigate Moussavi’s complaints.

In a meeting Sunday with Moussavi, the leader advised him to use legal means for his challenge to the election results and settle the issue in a calm atmosphere.

The labour news agency ILNA reported that Khamenei will also lead this week’s Friday prayer ceremony at Tehran University and be the main speaker.

Khamenei usually leads the prayer on special occasions and his presence at Tehran University is in connection with the recent developments.

In early protests some 170 protestors were reportedly arrested, and were said to have been taken to the notorious Evin prison in northern Tehran.

Some of the detainee’s relatives petitioned a Tehran court Monday to release them, or a least to allow contact with them.

Moussavi’s website was still blocked but his supporters were using proxy servers to access the site. Moussavi’s newspaper Green Word was also reportedly banned.