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Security forces quell opposition protests in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — Thousands of Iranian security forces dispersed antigovernment demonstrators who tried to gather Sunday in Tehran's main squares to commemorate the deaths of two men killed during a protest a week ago, witnesses reported.

Official media denied reports of heavy security presence and minor skirmishes with opposition supporters, stressing that the Iranian capital was calm. But witnesses described large groups of protesters at several locations in the city and a hefty number of security forces armed with clubs, tear gas and Tasers out to thwart them.

There were unconfirmed reports of gunshots, and a police commander said a person carrying explosives had been arrested. Some opposition websites said two people had been killed, but officials denied the reports. "Such news is totally unfounded, as there was no clash or disturbance in the capital today," said Safarali Baratloo, a security official, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency.

Faezeh Hashemi, a well-known women's rights activist and daughter of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was arrested for "making provocative slogans, encouraging the rioters," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. She was later released, Fars said.

Witnesses reported that riot police were stationed in the city's main squares. In a significant change in tactics, Iran's opposition had called on supporters to occupy important squares across the city, rather than the 6-mile-long Enghelab, or Revolution, Street, where they had organized previous marches.

Opposition websites said the Sunday demonstration was a success. "The widespread but unconcentrated presence of people on the streets created hassles, disorganization and frustration for police, security and intelligence forces," according to the site.

Sahamnews, which is related to the opposition, reported protests in other cities as well, including Shiraz and Mashhad.

Security forces quell opposition protests in Iran 02/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 10:32pm]
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