Tens of thousands defy ban to march in Tehran in support of Mousavi

Jun 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Tens of thousands defy ban to march in Tehran in support of Mousavi

Jenny Booth

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Tens of thousands of Iranian opposition activists have taken to the streets of Iran for a third day protesting against the disputed presidential election, defying a ban by the Interior Ministry.

Chanting crowds wearing green campaign colours greeted Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated candidate in Friday’s disputed presidential elections, as he slowly moved through the streets on the back of a four-wheel drive car.

“Mousavi we support you! We will die but retrieve our votes!” shouted the crowds of thousands, young and old, who packed his route.

Riots in Iran

Riots in Iran

Both Mr Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated candidate who appeared alongside him today, have lodged complaints that the vote was rigged, after the results – which awarded a record-breaking 25 million votes and 63 per cent of the electorate to President Ahmadinejad – were announced before the ballot boxes had even been opened in some areas.

Today it emerged that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has been forced by the strength of public opinion to perform a U-turn and back an election inquiry.

On Saturday Ayatollah Khamenei declared that the victory by Mr Ahmadinejad, his political creature, were not merely fair but a “divine intervention”.

“This is a turnaround for Khamenei, and it’s an embarrassing one,” said Professor Ali Ansari, the director of the Iranian Institute at St Andrews University.

Dozens more protesters were arrested overnight, as police and militia stormed the campus at Tehran’s biggest university after about 3,000 students at dormitories of Tehran University began a demonstration, chanting “Death to the dictator”.

Tehran University was the site of intense but short-lived clashes during student-led protests in 1999, and is one of the nerve centres of the pro-reform movement.

Iran’s powerful 12-member Guardians Council said today it would rule on the candidates’ complaints within 10 days. The chances that they will overturn the result are thought to be remote.

Despite the use of teargas, rubber bullets and beatings by baton-wielding militiamen, there have been no reported fatalities. But with most of the foreign journalists allowed into Iran to report on the election due to leave today, there are fears that the crackdown may intensify.

Iran faced a growing backlash abroad over the election result.

The Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said today that there were signs of irregularities in the election, while her Foreign Minister summoned the Iranian ambassador for a dressing-down over the tactics employed by baton-wielding police.

“The actions of the Iranian security forces are completely unacceptable,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in comments shown on German television.

Both Mr Steinmeier and Bernard Kouchner, his French counterpart, today urged Iran to hold a swift inquiry into claims of vote rigging.

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