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Iranian Police Suppress Mourning Protesters - The New York Times

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Middle East|Police Try to Quell Protesters Who Mourn Iranian Cleric

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Middle East

Police Try to Quell Protesters Who Mourn Iranian Cleric

By NAZILA FATHIDEC. 24, 2009

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TORONTO — The police in Tehran and the northwestern city of Zanjan clashed Thursday with protesters defying an order by the Iranian government banning memorial services for a senior cleric, opposition Web sites reported.

Protesters marched in Imam Khomeini Square in southern Tehran in a sign of mourning for the senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a supporter of the opposition, who died Sunday at 87, the Web site Jaras reported. Opposition Web sites reported that the police attacked the protesters with clubs and tear gas.

One Web site, Activists for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, reported that Tehran protesters chanted, “Today is a mourning day; the green nation of Iran is mourning today” — a reference to the trademark color of the opposition.

Older women tried to prevent the arrest of young men by throwing themselves on them, and were severely beaten by officers who intended to drag the young men away, the Web site reported.

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The police in Zanjan, a city of mostly Turkish speakers, tried to prevent a mourning ceremony by locking the mosque where the ceremony was to be held and attacking mourners who chanted outside it, Jaras reported.

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“The police beat people with such violence that many suffered from broken legs, arms and noses,” the Web site reported. There were many arrests, Jaras said.

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The government has banned mourning ceremonies for Ayatollah Montazeri, who was one of the architects of Iran’s theocracy but became a critic of it and was dismissed in 1988 as the successor to the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He remained an opposition figure and was put under house arrest from 1997 to 2003 for his criticism of the current supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The opposition is planning a large protest on Sunday, the Shiite mourning day of Ashura, when Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was killed in a bloody battle. The ceremony coincides with one for Ayatollah Montazeri, traditionally held on the seventh day after a death.

In another development, official Web sites in Tehran said Thursday that as of Jan. 8, the government would ban bank notes that had been written on. Political slogans and other markings have been showing up on some of the bank notes, which all bear the image of Ayatollah Khomeini.

A version of this article appears in print on December 25, 2009, on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Police Try to Quell Protesters Who Mourn Iranian Cleric. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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