Iran warns protesters it will show ‘no mercy’

Dec 8th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Iran warns protesters it will show ‘no mercy’

Iranian paramilitary forces block office of opposition leader Mousavi

By Thomas Erdbrink
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 8:52 AM

The Washington Post

”] Disgruntled Iranians clash with riot police at an anti-government protest in Teheran. [file] Photo: APTEHRAN — A day after Iranian security forces and paramilitary groups used clubs, tear gas and electric batons to break up anti-government demonstrations, the government’s chief prosecutor warned that “from now on, we will show no mercy” to protesters or their families.

Prosecutor Mohseni-Ejei said authorities have no intention of letting the demonstrations, which have festered for six months, continue.

“Intelligence and security . . . forces have been ordered not to give any leeway to those who break the law, act against national security and disturb public order,” he said. “Families are responsible too if their children are arrested. They will have no right to complain. Our people can no longer take this,” Mohseni-Ejei said of the protests. “It is our duty to defend the rights of the people.”

The harsh rhetoric came as paramilitary forces surrounded the office of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader whose defeat in last June’s disputed presidential elections sparked the anti-government protests. The pro-government militia, known as the Basij, prevented Mousavi from leaving his office at the Iranian Academy of the Arts on Monday, according to the pro-Mousavi Web site Kalame.com. The Web site said the Basij blocked the exit again on Tuesday when he tried to go out.

“If you are on a mission to kill, beat or threaten me, go ahead,” Mousavi said, according to Kaleme.com. He referred to the Basij as “mercenaries.”

On Monday, authorities blocked main roads into the city center and arrested dozens of demonstrators who brought their anti-government message to Iran’s annual “Student Day” rallies.

Despite government warnings that such demonstrations were illegal and would be met with force, thousands of demonstrators tried to join students at sealed-off campuses of Tehran’s main universities. Deployed to head them off were hundreds of riot police, Revolutionary Guard Corps troops and members of the Basij.

“I saw three middle-aged women being shocked by members of the Basij using stun guns,” a witness said by telephone from a street near the University of Tehran. “I ran away, but when I turned around, I saw them lying on the street, their bodies shaking because of the shocks.” As he spoke, people could be heard screaming in the background.

Other witnesses reported battles outside the university gates, with protesters throwing rocks and setting fire to motorcycles and trash containers as riot police fought them with tear gas. Members of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, were seen using cellphones to coordinate their movements against the demonstrators.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency reported that 7,000 pro-government students gathered inside the university, shouting slogans in support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It said there were 50 “rioters” who “made trouble” on the sidelines of the gathering.

“The rally is underway with cries of “Death to opponents of the leader” and “God is great; Khamenei is the leader,” the news agency said.

But cellphone video clips posted on the Internet also showed protesters shouting slogans against the supreme leader.

Passengers riding buses on Enghelab Street, which runs alongside the sprawling campus, joined in chants against the government as security forces beat people waiting at bus stops, witnesses said.

The crackdown appeared to limit the opposition turnout Monday, but several opposition Web sites said more demonstrations were planned during the upcoming 10-day Shiite religious festival of Ashura, which starts Dec. 18 and peaks on Dec. 27 in a commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein, a Shiite martyr who was killed in battle in the 7th century.

Members of Iran’s political establishment have warned that the continuing crackdown is radicalizing many of the protesters. Saying they fear for the nation’s future, establishment political and religious leaders have called for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top officials to work out a compromise with their political opponents.

Adding his voice to that chorus Monday was Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, 85, an influential Shiite religious figure who lives in the holy city of Qom. In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency, he urged the government to reach a deal with supporters of Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another former presidential candidate. “They are people of this country,” he was quoted as saying. “We should sit down and negotiate.”

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