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Student Funeral Prompts New Tehran Clashes

Pro-government Iranians carry the flag-draped coffin of Sane Jaleh, seen in picture at left, a student who was killed during Monday's clashes, in a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, February 16, 2011

There were fresh clashes in Iran’s capital, Tehran, on Wednesday during the funeral of a student killed in a political rally earlier this week.

The funeral was for Sanea Jaleh, a 26-year-old student who was killed on Monday.

Both the government and the opposition in Iran say Jaleh is a martyr and that he supported their cause. Both have blamed the other for his death.

The rally on Monday was called to show solidarity with revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, which have led to the overthrow of the countries’ longtime rulers.

Iran’s government said Wednesday a rally will take place in Tehran on Friday to demonstrate “hatred” against the country’s opposition movement.

The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organizes rallies in Iran that are backed by the regime, says following Friday prayers, people will “scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust” against what it calls “sedition leaders.”

Conservative lawmakers in Iran already have voiced their anger at two opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who they blame for organizing Monday’s rally. Footage aired on Iran's state-run Press TV on Tuesday showed dozens of lawmakers calling for the two men to be tried and executed.

On Wednesday a senior hardline cleric, Ahmad Khatami, said the two opposition leaders are playing into the hands of Israel and the United States. Khatami said clerics want to see the decisive and legal confrontation of all seditionists, including Mousavi and Karroubi.

Both men are under effective house arrest but took to their websites on Wednesday in defiance of the threats made against them. Karroubi said he is not afraid and is ready to “pay any price” for his country.

Mark Fitzpatrick is an Iran expert with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. He said the climate in Iran this week has shown that opposition to the government survives.

"It's too early to say whether this protest that reemerged is going to expand. But what is clear is that there remains a reservoir of distrust of the government, of anxiety about its approach, and a desire for change. And that desire has not been wiped out," said Fitzpatrick.

The protests this week were the first in more than a year, since widespread unrest broke out after the disputed 2009 presidential election that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Dozens of people were killed in the security crackdown that followed.

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