Police use tear gas to disperse protests in Tehran

December 27th, 2009 - 1:08 am ICT by IANS  

Tehran, Dec 26 (DPA) There were renewed political protests on Saturday in Tehran and police fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds, an Iranian opposition website reported.
The Jaras website, which is close to the Green Movement led by former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi, said clashes between an unspecified number of protesters and police broke out in a public square in eastern Tehran.

The official news agency IRNA confirmed the protests in eastern Tehran but said there were at most 150 people.

IRNA accused the foreign media of having exaggerated the protests in order to encourage more people to gather at the venue.

Other websites reported protests and clashes with anti-riot guards in central and western Tehran as well.

Witnesses said protests also took place in a square near Tehran University, but did not give further details.

Jaras reported that some of the protesters near Tehran University sought shelter from police in the nearby students’ news agency ISNA but police followed them inside the agency’s compound.

ISNA has so far not yet commented on the incident.

Several websites reported that police have been shooting in the air and even arresting protesters, but there has been no confirmation yet.

The protesters shouted “Death to the Dictator”, “Do not be afraid, we are all together” and other slogans in favour of Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the head of the opposition party Etemad Melli, according to witnesses.

Opposition groups had announced that they would take advantage of the two-day annual mourning ceremonies of Tassua and Ashura (on Saturday and Sunday) - marking the martyrdom of the third Shiite Imam Hossein - for renewed protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Police had also warned that they would harshly confront any non-religious gatherings.

The internet reports could not be independently verified as foreign media are strictly prohibited from covering street protests by the opposition.

Widespread protests started after the June 12 presidential voting, which led to the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad amid charges of fraud from the political opposition.

Meanwhile hundreds of Green Movement supporters staged a protest demonstration on the Niavaran Avenue in northern Tehran and shouted harsh slogans against Ahmadinejad and in support of Moussavi.

The protesters went into the streets after a speech in the Jamaran mosque by former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who is a close aide of Moussavi, was cancelled by authorities.

Witnesses said police chased the protesters and drivers passing on Niavaran Avenue honked their car horns in their support of the opposition.

Several residents in the nearby buildings show the victory sign from their windows and shout Allah’o Akbar (God is great) in support of the protesters.

Witnesses said some people helped protesters flee police by taking them into their cars despite heavy a traffic jam on the Niavaran Avenue.

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