Protesters clashed with supporters of the Iranian regime for a second straight day even as the chief prosecutor threatened to try the main opposition leader and vigilantes briefly besieged his office.
The new crackdown on the opposition to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew strong criticism from Western governments already angered by Iran’s rejection of a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying concerns over its nuclear ambitions.
Party supporters clash
Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed at the prestigious Tehran University with backers of the Iranian government, official media said.
“Rioters wearing green wristbands” gathered from early in the day in front of the university’s engineering college to protest against Monday’s crackdown by authorities on people protesting against Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed June re-election, the state IRNA news agency said.
Tear gas fired
A confrontation ensued between the protesters and what the news agency described as pro-government students, resulting in the “breaking of glass and firing of tear gas,” IRNA said.
It added that there had also been stone-throwing by supporters of Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s leading challenger in the June vote, who chose green as the signature colour for his campaign and who has yet to accept the official result.
On Monday, anti-Ahmadinejad protesters used an annual Students Day ceremony on and around Tehran campuses to stage new demonstrations against his controversial second term.
Tehran police chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh said 204 demonstrators – 165 men and 39 women – were arrested in those protests for “disrupting public order”.
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said 86 were later released “after they expressed remorse”, news agencies reported.
Opposition leaders warned
Iran’s chief prosecutor warned Tehran provincial authorities that he expected opposition leaders to face the full force of the law if they encouraged further protests.
“I declare that from today on there will be no tolerance,” the ILNA news agency quoted Gholam Hossein Mohsen Ejeie as saying.
And Tehran governor Morteza Tamaddon directly blamed Mousavi for the unrest since Monday.
“The statement Mousavi issued on December 6 triggered the riots and moves that pleased the enemy on December 7,” he told IRNA.
Mousavi challenges officials
On Sunday, Mousavi posted a statement on his website challenging regime officials ahead of the Students Day commemoration.
Meanwhile, dozens of people on motorcycles briefly surrounded Mousavi’s office and prevented him from stepping out for several hours, witnesses and his Kaleme.com website reported.
All the entrances of the Academy of Fine Arts, located in central Tehran and which Mousavi heads, were surrounded by motorcyclists, a source working inside the building told AFP.
Reports of attacks on family
A group of vigilantes also attacked Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who is a professor at Tehran University, during Monday’s Student Day protests, another opposition website reported.
Rahnavard was hurt in the eyes and lungs, the Mowjcamp.com website added.
European leaders condemn actions
France strongly condemned “unacceptable” violence by Iranian authorities against opposition protesters.
“We remind the Iranian authorities that they are responsible for the safety of all Iranians, including opposition representatives,” a French foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels were set to voice their “deep concern” at what they regard as persistent human rights violations by Iran.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters that the “violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations” had led EU nations to “significantly strengthen the language” used in their draft statement.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Iran to respect the right to protest, saying it was a “fundamental freedom”.
Six long months
The unrest, now in its sixth month, has cut a rift through the Islamic regime, sparking its worst crisis since the 1979 revolution.
Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami warned that the regime was following a “dangerous” path in Its dealings with critics, his website reported on Tuesday.
“The current situation is not a war between reformists and conservatives. Many conservatives are unhappy too and the wise ones among them face elimination.
“This is a dangerous approach and I warn that this will harm the Islamic republic,” he said.