Iran arrests more than 200 in student protests

Iran threatened tougher action against protesters on Dec. 8 after more than 200 were arrested during marches by tens of thousands at universities across the country, the largest anti-government rallies in months, on Dec. 7.

CA Online and wire services

2009-12-10

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran threatened tougher action against protesters on Dec. 8 after more than 200 were arrested during marches by tens of thousands at universities across the country the day before, the largest anti-government rallies in months.

The warning suggested that the first day of unrest raised authorities' concern that the protest movement could pick up new steam. The protests on Dec. 7 turned into fierce clashes between youths throwing stones and riot police and militiamen wielding batons and tear gas.

Perhaps more importantly, they also saw an increased fervor and boldness among demonstrators, who more openly broke the most prominent taboo in Iran by burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.

The turnout, fueled by students marching by the thousands on more than a dozen campuses around the country, showed that months of arrests and government intimidation had failed to stamp out the movement sparked by the disputed presidential election in June.

On Dec. 8, riot police turned out in heavy numbers at intersections on major thoroughfares around the city.

Men in plain clothes, probably Basij members, also harassed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi at his Tehran office. Up to 30 men, some in masks, blocked his car as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition websites said, citing witnesses. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.

Hard-line clerics and commanders of the Revolutionary Guard have called for Mousavi’s arrest, accusing him of sparking protests and conspiring against Iran's clerical leadership. Arresting Mousavi or other top opposition leaders would represent a major escalation, and possibly spark greater turmoil. So far, the government has balked at taking that step.

Iran's top prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeh warned that the judiciary would be less tolerant than in the past. "So far, we have shown restraint. From today, no leniency will be applied."

[AP]

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