Iran allows demonstration despite weekend clampdown

Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi protest in the Turkish city of Ankara June 27.
Iran’s government will allow a demonstration at Tehran’s Ghoba mosque Sunday, CNN has confirmed.

The gathering is officially meant to honor Mohammad Beheshti, a hero of the 1979 Islamic Revolution who was killed in a bombing on this date in 1981. The demonstration comes after two weeks of protests against the official results of the June 12 presidential elections, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won. A post on a Web site associated with opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi urged people to go to the rally. “There will be a gathering in ‘Ghoba’ Mosque and it’s legal! Please send this message to everyone you can in Iran,” says the post in Farsi and English, on a page which claims to be Moussavi’s Facebook site. CNN has not confirmed the site is run by Moussavi or his associates. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Sunday called for an end to street demonstrations. “I advise both sides not to provoke the emotions of the youth, not to stage people against one another,” he said in a speech on government-funded Press TV. “This integrated nation must not be split and a group must not be incited against one another.” Although it is allowing the demonstration — intended for “the pious” — Iran intensified its crackdown over the weekend, reportedly seizing wounded protesters from their hospital beds and arresting local British embassy staff in Tehran. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband protested the arrest of embassy staff as “harassment and intimidation of a kind which is quite unacceptable.” “About nine” staffers have been affected, he said, adding that some had already been released. “We have protested in strong terms directly to the Iranian authorities about the arrests that took place yesterday,” but there has been no response, Miliband said. Eight local staff members at the embassy were detained for their role in the unrest, Iran’s government-funded Press TV reported Sunday. The Foreign Office in London confirmed there had been arrests but would not say how many.

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Last week, Tehran expelled two British diplomats. London responded by booting out two Iranian envoys. Iran then recalled its ambassador to Britain, saying it would reconsider its diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom. Amnesty International said Saturday that government-backed paramilitary forces are preventing doctors from getting names from wounded demonstrators or asking how they were hurt. Watch how Iran has dealt with protesters ┬╗ “The Basijis are waiting for them,” said Banafsheh Akhlaghi, western regional director of the human rights group, referring to the government’s paramilitary arm. The clampdown comes as the deadline looms to file complaints against the results of the disputed election, which has prompted weeks of demonstrations. Ahmadinejad won the disputed election by a margin of two to one over his nearest rival, according to official results. Defeated candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi said the results were rigged, and their supporters have taken to the streets. At least 17 protesters have been killed, according to official statistics, and the actual number may be higher. Akhlaghi told CNN the group has interviewed people who have left Iran and expatriates with relatives in the country. Those people said the Basij has prohibited medical officials from getting identifying information from demonstrators wounded in the streets. They are also not allowed to ask how the injuries happened. Once the patients are treated, the militia removes them from the hospital to an undisclosed location, she said. Iran has restricted international news agencies — including CNN — from reporting inside the Islamic republic. However, CNN has received similar accounts, including that of a woman who arrived in the United States from Iran with a broken ankle and thumb. The woman, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of her safety, said she was injured at a rally, but was too scared to go to a hospital. Instead, a doctor came to her home to treat her. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary general of Iran’s Human Rights High Council, rejected Amnesty’s claims as “totally false and fabricated,” and accused the group of “animosity towards Iran.” Iran’s minister of justice said the country has adequate documents to prove foreign interference in post-election events in Tehran, the country’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Sunday. “As regards foreign interference, the foreign ministry has adopted some measures and holds adequate documents,” Gholam Hossein Elham said, addressing a judiciary forum in Tehran. Fars did not say what documents Elham produced, if any. The minister also accused Western media outlets of promoting dissent, saying, “The (Western) media’s interference is not latent.” The Guardian Council, which oversees elections in Iran, reminded opposition candidates Saturday that they have until Sunday to lodge any more complaints about the vote, state-run media reported. Moussavi is still demanding that the Guardian Council annul the election results, and has requested an independent investigation of the election. “I suggest that the issue be referred to a legitimate legal and independent mediation body that is acceptable by all the candidates and supported by those grand sources of emulation who have been advocating the resolution of this issue,” an open letter to the Guardian Council attributed to Moussavi said Saturday on the candidate’s Web site, Ghalam news. CNN has not been able to verify the authenticity of the post.

Meanwhile, the Guardian Council called on “all political and religious figures to voice their queries and present any documents on alleged irregularities,” according to comments Saturday from council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaie, who was quoted by state-run Press TV. “Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi have 24 hours to come into council in person and introduce their representatives,” a Press TV anchor reported on air Saturday, referring to the two candidates who contend the vote results are fraudulent.