TEHRAN – Iranian security forces in Tehran fired tear gas on Tuesday at anti-government protesters demanding the release of two opposition leaders they save have been jailed, opposition websites reported.
However, the online edition of state-run newspaper Iran reported that Tehran was calm, with work going on as usual.
Kaleme.com and Sahamnews.org, the websites of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, reported clashes between protesters and security forces near Tehran University and in other parts of the capital, including Azadi (Freedom) Square.
Security forces, deployed in large numbers, fired tear gas at people chanting “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!” in support of Mousavi as well as “Death to the Dictator,” referring to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the main target of the protests.
Iran has banned foreign media from on-the-spot coverage of opposition protests.
Another opposition website, Rahesabz.net, reported that police arrested five people during the demonstrations.
Sahamnews.org said protesters were gathering in clusters “sporadically near Azadi Square but were being extensively attacked by special police forces.”
The protests were called by an opposition group backing Mousavi and Karroubi and to demand their release.
The status of the two men was unclear. Their websites claim they have been jailed, along with their wives, which officials deny.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie denied reports posted by opposition websites that the two men had been jailed in Tehran’s Heshmatiyeh prison.
“The published news by some hostile media regarding the transfer of Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi to Heshmatiyeh detention centre is false,” he told the ISNA news agency.
On Monday Kaleme.com and Sahamnews.org had first reported that Mousavi, Karroubi and their wives have been arrested and taken to Heshmatiyeh.
That report was quickly denied by an unnamed judicial official quoted by Fars news agency.
But relatives of the two leaders repeated on Tuesday their claim that the two men and their wives were being held in the jail.
“We, the children of Mousavi and (his wife Zahra) Rahnavard, utterly reject the report denying our parents’ detention in the prison of Heshmatiyeh,” Kaleme.com website quoted Mousavi’s daughters as saying, just hours before Mohseni Ejeie’s denial.
“The only way to disprove the report of their arrest is by us meeting them immediately at our father’s home. Given the evidence over the past days and weeks, we are certain that our parents are not at home.”
Karroubi’s family also insisted on Tuesday that the cleric and his wife were in prison.
“All the evidence shows Mehdi Karroubi and Fatemeh Karroubi are not present at their home,” Sahamnews.org website quoted a family statement as saying.
It said a daughter-in-law of Karroubi had gone to visit him Monday morning, “but unfortunately no one showed up at the door.
“The family of Mehdi Karroubi considers this as abduction carried out by the regime.”
The two men, who have never accepted Ahmadinejad’s controversial June 2009 re-election, were put under complete house arrest after their supporters staged protests on February 14, the first in a year, their websites reported last month.
The recent protests have infuriated regime-backers. Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani has accused the two men of “treason” and lawmakers have demanded they be hanged.
Meanwhile, Iran hit out at Washington after it criticised Tehran over the reported jailing of the two men and called for their release.
“These issues are our internal affairs. No country is allowed and will not be allowed to interfere in our internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agenc
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