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Iran Arrests Protesters Over Torn Khomeini Photos


Iranian government radio is reporting that arrests have been made over an alleged incident in which posters of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were burned.

Iranian opposition supporters deny having burned Khomeini's picture, saying the government is using the alleged incident to crack down on them.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaffari Dolatabadi says arrests have been made in the incident in which a widely circulated video clip allegedy show portraits of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei being burned.

Dolatabadi told a news conference "those who were (present)" at the scene of the alleged portrait-burning were "identified ... detained ... and arrested." He was quoted by the official Iranian news agency IRNA as saying "no mercy will be shown to those who insulted (Khomeini)."

The remarks came amid a government-orchestrated campaign to arouse public ire against the portrait-burners, whom official media allege are members of the opposition. Opposition supporters say the government staged the burning to discredit them.

Government TV showed groups of students, worshippers at several mosques, and what looked like a large group of marchers for the third day in a row, all shouting slogans in defense of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In addition to the pro-government demonstrations, Iranian TV played an emotional tribute to Khomeini, showing him addressing students in front of his home in 1979.

The Iranian government also organized a conference of scholars and clerics in honor of the late Ayatollah, who died in 1989. Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani also jumped on the patriotic bandwagon, jumping to Khomeini's defense.

He says irreverent people have insulted the memory of Imam Khomeini by burning his portrait. People have gotten themselves upset and excited about the (June 12th presidential elections) and done (such things), but it has been determined that (the election) was honest and fair.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the Iranian opposition movement, Sunday, calling its leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi "former brothers," and urged them to "calm their supporters," and put a stop to "sacrileges" like the alleged portrait-burning.

Analysts and opposition websites warned the government may be planning to arrest Mousavi, amid demands by top Revolutionary Guard commanders that an example be made of him.

Tehran prosecutor Dolatabadi was quoted by government media as saying that "if some people believe that due to their public support they will not be summoned (before a court), they are mistaken."

Mr. Mousavi, in a bid to stave off an eventual government crackdown, was quoted by an opposition website as insisting that "all protests, from now on, be conducted peacefully and lawfully," but went on to say that "(people) should not be confronted violently." He also accused the government of sending hardliners armed with batons and sticks to attack students.

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