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After protests, Iran vows 'no mercy' over torn Ayatollah photos

Iran accuses students of tearing photos of Ayatollah Khomeini during protests last week. They deny the charge and say they were set up.

By Jonathan Adams / December 14, 2009

Masked Iranian students, supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, shout slogans while holding pictures of the Islamic revolution's father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during a rally in central Tehran on Sunday.

Reuters

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Iranian authorities on Monday arrested several antigovernment protesters accused of burning or trampling on photos of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder. The government did not release names or the number of people arrested.

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The arrests sharpen tensions that flared a week ago when student demonstrators clashed with pro-government militia around the country. During that unrest, photos of Khomeini, as well as photos of current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, were damaged. Enraged pro-government protesters turned out this past weekend to rally against the alleged desecration of the revered figures.

The government accuses the student protesters of desecrating the images. Students deny the charge and say they’ve been set up.

The Associated Press quoted Tehran’s prosecutor as saying there would be “no mercy toward those found guilty.

Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said authorities were preparing indictments against those arrested, according to the official IRNA news agency.
“There will be no mercy toward those who insulted the Imam (Khomeini) and top officials of the system,” IRNA quoted him as saying. ...
Reformists, including opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, maintain their supporters had nothing to do with the burning of the supreme leader’s picture, which they say is being used by the regime to discredit the opposition.

Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke out against the alleged desecration, and 230 Iranian lawmakers signed a statement urging legal action against those behind such acts, according to the web site of Iran’s Press TV.

Most Iranians, even protesters, oppose any desecration of images of the Islamic Republic’s founder, reports The New York Times.

For all the charges and counter-charges that have been raised during the crisis — including vote rigging, the rape of jailed protesters and the plotting of a velvet revolution — each side seemed to agree that burning an image of Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the state who is revered as divine, was going too far.

Agence France-Presse reported that Iran’s opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, urged both the government and protesters to deal with their disagreements peacefully.

“People have a right to question, they should not be confronted violently,” Mousavi was quoted as saying by Rahesabz.net

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“From now on all protests and demands should be pursued peacefully and lawfully. Nobody among us should make a pretext for those who are against people,” he said.

Ayatollah Khamenei also spoke out Sunday, and appealed for calm, according to the Tehran Times.

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