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Sat 12 Jun 2010 10:23 AM

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Iran protesters go online as vote rally is scrapped

Images of the woman who died during protests begin appearing on websites.

Iran protesters go online as vote rally is scrapped
IRAN HEAD: Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Getty Images)

Opposition supporters in Iran posted a previously unpublished video of the death of a woman during protests over president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, a show of defiance after the movement’s leaders dropped plans for a demonstration on Saturday’s anniversary of the vote.

The images of the dying Neda Agha Soltan began appearing on Friday on websites such as YouTube and Facebook. The 34- second mobile-phone footage shows blood pouring from her mouth and nose, covering her face. The video is of better quality than the one that last year turned Agha Soltan into a symbol of dissent over what government opponents called a rigged vote.

Backers of Ahmadinejad’s main election rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and fellow candidate Mehdi Karrubi have struggled to reignite resistance since security forces responded violently to protests following the June 12 vote. Police warned against any rallies to mark the anniversary of the election, which sparked Iran’s biggest anti-government demonstrations since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“The authorities’ preparedness in second-guessing the opposition’s next steps is one of the reasons why the movement has faltered,” Gala Riani, Middle East analyst for London-based business intelligence and forecaster IHS Global Insight, wrote in an e-mailed commentary yesterday. “Where opposition protests have been expected, the authorities have mobilised large numbers of security forces and imposed strict controls.”

Mousavi, an ex-prime minister, and Karrubi, a former parliament speaker, said on May 23 that they would urge people to attend a demonstration should the government allow it to be held, according to Mousavi’s website. On June 10, they scrapped the plan, “to protect the lives and property of people,” according to a joint statement on their websites.

The opposition says some followers were beaten and raped and that some died in custody during a post-election crackdown by the security forces. The government says 44 people died in the unrest, while Amnesty International says the number is at least double. Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, with 115 recorded by Amnesty to date in 2010.

In the U.K., Foreign Secretary William Hague said he remains “gravely disturbed by the deterioration” of human rights in Iran.

“I call on the government of Iran to guarantee to its citizens the basic human rights and freedoms they are entitled to, and that it is committed to as a member of the international community,” Hague said in an e-mailed statement on Friday.

The governor-general of Tehran province, Morteza Tamaddon, said yesterday that no permission was granted for any June 12 rally, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. All previous requests for opposition rallies since the election have been denied. Police said they would respond to any unauthorized demonstrations that take place today, according to state media.

Emboldened at home, Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are digging in their heels over sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and many of its allies allege may be disguising a plan to build a bomb. The United Nations Security Council passed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over the nuclear program on June 9, which Ahmadinejad said should be “thrown into the trash bin like a used tissue.”

The opposition leaders’ decision not to bring their supporters onto the streets was criticized by Mohammad-Reza Heydari, former Iranian diplomat who quit over the treatment of post-election protesters.

“Karrubi and Mousavi’s statement was a mistake and it will discourage people from coming to the streets,” Heydari said yesterday in a telephone interview from Oslo, Norway, where he was granted asylum in February. “This approach won’t get them anywhere.”

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