June 13, 2011
Tehran – Protests were held Sunday – the second anniversary of disputed presidential elections – by opposition supporters in the capital Tehran who also clashed with police and security forces.
But the protests were overshadowed by the sudden death of Iranian dissident and journalist Reza Hoda Saber of a heart attack while he was on a hunger strike.
The opposition had called for silent protests against the government, their websites reported. Demonstrations were planned in central and northern Tehran but designed to avoid provoking confrontations with police.
Masses gathered along Vali-Asr Avenue, which connects the capital from north to south and where several shops downed shutters over concerns of violence.
Witnesses said that police and security forces were deployed in several parts of Tehran, as were baton-weilding members of the voluntary Basij force.
The opposition websites also reported clashes between protesters and security forces at a park in the north and Vali Asr Square in central Tehran. They said that several demonstrators were arrested, but there was no official confirmation.
The reports could not be independently verified as the government has prohibited Western media from covering the opposition protests.
Meanwhile, the 54-year-old journalist and dissident Saber died in a Tehran hospital where he was transferred from Evin prison.
He had been on a hunger strike for 10 days to protest the suspicious death of fellow dissident Haleh Sahabi during the funeral of her father Ezatollah Sahabi earlier this month.
Saber’s sister, Firouzeh Hoda Saber, confirmed the death after she identified his body at the coroner’s office, ISNA news agency reported.
Saber was member of a nationalist movement and was jailed following the presidential elections in 2009 and the protests afterwards over alleged election fraud.
After Ezatollah and Haleh Sahabi, Saber is the third dissident to die this month.
Opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehr Karroubi have been under house arrest since February.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election on June 12, 2009 despite accusations of vote fraud.
Violence related to the post-election protests led to the deaths of more than 30 dissidents and thousands of arrests. The opposition has claimed that the death toll was more than 80.
There have also been reports of an internal crisis because of the differences between Ahmadinejad and the clergy and conservative circles since April.
The president’s aides have been accused of undermining the ruling Islamic system and the authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who according to the constitution has the final say on all state affairs.
Ahmadinejad said last week that the growing criticism against him would not affect his policies.