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No end to Iranian unrest in sight

world Updated: Jun 18, 2009 00:29 IST
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Iranian Reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi called on Wednesday for a day of mourning for those killed in clashes set off by a disputed presidential election as tens of thousands protested for the fifth straight day.

Supporters of defeated candidate Mousavi defied authorities in Tehran to demonstrate against the victory of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Friday’s poll, which caused the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Street battles in Tehran killed at least seven people on Monday, according to state media. Other protests have flared up in cities across Iran.

“A number of our countrymen were wounded or martyred,” Mousavi said, calling Thursday’s day of mourning.

“I ask the people to express their solidarity with the coming together in mosques or taking part in peaceful demonstrations,” Mousavi said on his website.

Bloodshed, mass protests, arrests and a media crackdown have focused world attention on the fifth-biggest oil exporter which is locked in a row over its nuclear programme with the West.

After Mousavi’s web message, his supporters poured into Tehran’s Haft-e Tir Square, ignoring an Interior Ministry warning, witnesses said. They were mostly dressed in black with wristbands and headbands in Mousavi’s green campaign colours.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is to lead Friday prayers and is expected to repeat his appeal for calm.

The Iranian foreign ministry said that some foreign media outlets have become the “mouthpiece of rioters” who tarnished the country's image following the disputed election.

The Paris-based press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, said on Wednesday that a dozen Iranian journalists and bloggers have been arrested and many others are in hiding after authorities took steps to restrict the media.

Arrests, death penalty

Security forces arrested a pro-reform activist and an editor on Wednesday while a provincial prosecutor warned that those causing unrest faced the death penalty. An official inquiry was launched into an attack on university students.

Tuesday’s rally was addressed by Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of the former president who backed Mousavi. Her public support was another sign of high-level rifts in the Islamic Republic.

Hardline students called for her to be arrested for incitement.