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Iranian police beat mourners at cemetery memorial
Agence France-Presse
Page 1
2009-07-31 12:43 AM
Iranian police yesterday forced opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to leave a cemetery just minutes after his arrival as hundreds gathered to mourn protesters killed in post-election violence, witnesses said.

Witnesses said Mousavi managed to get out of his car and walk up to the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who came to symbolize the protest movement against the June re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Riot police beat mourners who staged a defiant gathering at a cemetery.

Police used sticks, batons and belts on some of the hundreds of people who turned up at the cemetery south of Tehran where the protesters are buried and also forced opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to leave, witnesses said.

The graveyard became a flashpoint as crowds gathered to mark the 40th day since the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who came to symbolize the protest movement against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Witnesses said about 150 police and some members of the Islamic Basij militia were in and around Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, with a number surrounding the graveyard where Neda is buried.

Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have waged a defiant protest campaign since losing to Ahmadinejad in what they brand a rigged election, had announced they would go to the cemetery after the authorities banned another memorial ceremony. A graphic Internet video of Neda bleeding to death on a Tehran street on June 20 was seen around the world and triggered an outcry over the Iranian crackdown on demonstrators. Witnesses said police had blocked three streets leading to the graveyard where Neda is buried. About 40 people, wearing green wristbands and T-shirts - the signature colour of Mousavi's election campaign - were earlier seen standing around Neda's grave which was decorated with candles and flowers. Mousavi, a prime minister in the post-revolution years who was Ahmadinejad's main challenger, has consistently refused to acknowledge his rival's victory, saying it was a "shameful fraud."

Hundreds of thousands of people poured on to the streets of Tehran after the election result and in the ensuing violence about 30 people were killed, scores wounded and several thousand arrested, Iranian officials say.

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