Dubai: Tens of thousands of Iranian mourners turned the funeral procession of the country’s most senior dissident cleric into an anti-government protest on Monday, chanting “death to the dictator” and slogans in support of the opposition amid heavy security.
Giant crowds filled major streets, beating their chests in mourning, waving banners in the green colors of the opposition and shouting denunciations of Iran’s rulers as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri’s body was carried to a shrine in the holy city of Qom.
Some mourners clashed briefly with security forces, throwing stones — and hardline pro-government militiamen charged some protesters until police held them back, opposition websites said. The militiamen tore down mourning banners and ripped to pieces posters of Montazeri near his home, the Hammihan website reported. Iranian authorities have barred foreign media from covering the rites.
The death of Montazeri on Sunday, at the age of 87, pushed Iranian authorities into a difficult spot. They were obliged to pay respects to one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
But officials also worried that his mourning rites could give a new push to opposition protests, particularly because they coincide with a week of traditional rallies commemorating a revered Shia martyr.
Montazeri broke with Iran’s clerical leadership and became a vehement critic, denouncing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling the postelection crackdown the work of a dictatorship.
Mourners shouted “Death to the Dictator” and other slogans in displays of anger against Iran’s ruling establishment during the procession in Qom. AP
‘Tehran jamming BBC signal’
London: The BBC has claimed that its Persian television signal was being jammed following the airing stories on the death of Iran’s top dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.
The corporation said its service for Persian speakers began facing persistent interference on Sunday, affecting the Hotbird 6 satellite, which carries the BBC’s international television and radio services in various languages.