By SOF Editor on Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:50am
Iranian opposition groups say authorities have arrested at least five prominent reformists as part of a new crackdown on anti-government protests, following demonstrations in which at least eight people were killed.
Opposition Web sites say three advisers to Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were detained Monday, including his top aide, Ali Riza Beheshti.
They say authorities also arrested human-rights campaigner Emad Baghi and opposition activist Ebrahim Yazdi, who was foreign minister after Iran's Islamic Revolution three decades ago.
State-run Press TV says eight people were killed in nationwide anti-government protests Sunday at the climax of Ashura, a solemn Shi'ite religious observance. Police are denying charges by opposition groups that security forces fired on demonstrators.
Among those killed Sunday was Ali Mousavi, a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. The late nephew's brother (Reza) told VOA (Persian News Network) the body has disappeared from a hospital in Tehran.
Sunday's violence was the most serious in Iran since protests after the country's disputed election in June, which gave conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office.
No independent confirmation of casualty or arrest reports was possible since Iran has barred foreign media from covering the demonstrations.
Witnesses say Iranian protesters fought back against security forces Sunday in several locations, throwing stones, beating up policemen and setting their vehicles on fire.
Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi sharply criticized the government's use of force against tens of thousands of protesters. In a statement Monday, Karroubi, himself a cleric, asked how Iran's clerical leaders could order the killing of their own people during Ashura. He said even Iran's ousted former monarch, the shah, respected the Shi'ite Muslim holy day by avoiding conflict with opposition activists at such times.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the White House strongly condemns what it calls "the violent and unjust suppression" of Iranian civilians.