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Inquiry blames police for Iran raids

A government inquiry blamed hard-line security forces and vigilantes for a raid on a student dormitory that sparked Iran's largest protests since the 1979 revolution, state-run media said Saturday.

The report on the July 9 raid was likely to boost the standing of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who had criticized the police raid, in his power struggle with hard-line clerics.

Also Saturday, a hard-line newspaper reported that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court condemned to death alleged instigators of the student protests.

The evening Kayhan daily, quoting "informed sources," said the court also gave long jail terms to several other defendants. It did not say when the sentences were given or identify the defendants.

The paper is believed to have close ties to Iran's hard-line judiciary. The report was received in Dubai and could not be independently confirmed.

The raid on a Tehran University dormitory left one person dead and 20 seriously injured. It also sparked six days of nationwide protests demanding democratic reforms. At least three people were killed and 200 others wounded in the demonstrations.

The size and vehemence of the protests, which were largely in support of Khatami, shocked hard-liners who oppose Khatami's reforms and control the country's most powerful institutions, including security forces.

The special committee that investigated the raid said in a 34-page report that law enforcement officers allowed vigilantes to attack the students in the dormitory.

However, the government inquiry cleared police Chief Hedayat Lotfian, whose dismissal the student protesters had demanded, of any wrongdoing.

The committee investigation, ordered by the Supreme National Security Council, which is headed by Khatami, said police and vigilantes beat up students and used foul language against them during the raid, state-run media said in reports monitored in Dubai.

Senior hard-line officials, including Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have blamed the protests on "a group of vicious people" supported by exiled Iranian groups and unnamed foreign countries.

Meanwhile, Khamenei named Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to replace hard-liner Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as chief of the nation's judiciary. Yazdi was responsible for a crackdown on the liberal media.

It was unclear whether the new chief had different political leanings than his hard-line predecessor.