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March 17, 2010 5:37 am
There were tight security measures in Tehran on Tuesday to prevent Iran’s opposition from turning a traditional festival into an anti-government rally.
Eyewitnesses said the police deployed in the capital’s main squares, while helicopters hovered over neighbourhoods where supporters of the opposition Green Movement often gather.
Shops were forced to shut down, making the city look as if there was a public holiday. But there were no immediate reports of clashes or arrests.
Iranians have a traditional festival on the last Tuesday before the end of the Iranian year, which falls on March 20.
Some opposition supporters had urged people to use the national occasion for street protests, which have taken place since Mahmoud Ahamdi-Nejad won a disputed presidential election in June last year.
But Mir-Hossein Moussavi, who ran against the president and claims the election was stolen from him, said it was not necessary for the Green Movement to hold another protest on Tuesday. Instead, he called for calm to encourage other groups, notably teachers and urban workers, to join the the opposition.
Mehdi Karroubi, another opposition leader, issued a statement saying the Islamic Republic “suffers from dictatorship” and elections in Iran had become meaningless.
The street protests have gone into a decline since the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution last month. The street rallies on that occasion were dominated by supporters of the government and the opposition failed to mount any large demonstrations.
Two opposition supporters were hanged last month. In a move to intimidate protesters, the judiciary said on Monday that six more opposition figures had been sentenced to death. These verdicts are subject to appeal.
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