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Next flash point in Iran face-off: Friday prayers

Ahead of a sermon by Mousavi supporter Hashemi Rafsanjani, protesters have taken their fight off the streets – including trying to crash the electricity grid by turning on kitchen appliances en masse.

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Posters titled The Promised Day Has Arrived are already being circulated ahead of Friday prayers. They promise the presence of Mr. Mousavi and former President Mohammad Khatami, and urge reformists to flood the prayer hall.

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Friday prayers at Tehran University have traditionally been a political agenda setter for the Islamic Republic and conservative rallying point. The open-air hall rings weekly with condemnations of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and cries of "Death to America." A week into the postelection rioting, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, took the unusual step of personally addressing Friday prayers and delivered a speech condemning the rioters as the unwilling pawns of a British-fomented "Velvet Revolution."

"The British involvement in the recent unrest in our country is definite and clear," said Law Enforcement Forces chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam last week, while announcing that two-thirds of the 1,032 individuals imprisoned after the elections were released. "Their involvement, either through their embassy or the BBC ... is so clear that it can't be denied."

Watchdog: Iran 'biggest prison for journalists'

In a fresh spate of detentions, Getty Images photographer Majid Saeedi was arrested this weekend at his home and taken away to Evin Prison, according to friends and colleagues. Mr. Saeedi had been covering both sides of the story but had told his circle that he feared arrest. Another photographer reported missing is Satyar Emami, an accomplished feature photographer who has won the Press News section of the Tehran Photo Biennal. No charge has been announced against Saeedi, but his house was searched and items confiscated.

"They [the government] want to scare people at the moment; it's a show of power," says Vali, a friend of Saeedi's speaking from Tehran. "They've carried out a coup and need to keep people crushed so that their act will be accepted."

Iran has become the world's preeminent jailer of journalists with 41 media workers currently incarcerated, according to Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders. "Iran is already the world's biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents and is on the way to becoming the world's most dangerous place for them to operate," it charged in a press release Sunday.

"You think images have no power?" asked Mana Kia, a PhD candidate at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., focusing on contemporary Iran, in an e-mail. "When the government refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of anything to protest, then Iranian journalists involved in spreading information and images about demonstrations and protests domestically and internationally become perceived as threats to the state."

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