updated 7/9/2007 4:52:48 PM ET 2007-07-09T20:52:48

Iranian police and plainclothes security agents broke up a sit-in marking Monday’s anniversary of a bloody raid on a Tehran university dormitory, then stormed the offices of the country’s main pro-democracy student group, student leaders said.

Fifteen students and a mother were beaten and detained, they said. There was no confirmation by the government, which rarely comments on such arrests.

Iran had banned street protests to mark the anniversary of July 9, 1999, raid by police and hard-line vigilantes on a Tehran University dormitory that killed one person and injured at least 20.

Those attacks triggered six days of nationwide protests, the worst since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power.

Pouya Ifaei, a student leader, said the students organized their sit-in at Amir Kabir University Monday to protest the continued detention of eight students been in custody since May on vague charges and to mark the anniversary of the 1999 attack.

“Six students were attacked, beaten up and then detained by police and plainclothes security agents as they staged a sit-in at the main entrance to Amir Kabir University,” Nariman Mostafavi, another student leader, told The Associated Press.

Nine other students and the mother of one of them were also attacked and detained later Monday after police and plainclothes security agents broke windows and forced their way into the offices of the student group in central Tehran, said Mostafavi, a leader of the Office for Fostering Unity. The group opposes the strict hard-line interpretations of Islam and seeks greater democratic changes within the ruling Islamic establishments.

“Hard-line agents told people in the streets that they attacked a building used by ruffians and drug traffickers, not students. This is the enemy we are dealing with,” Mostafavi said.

Student groups were the main supporters of former President Mohammad Khatami, but they were routinely confronted and jailed by hard-line unelected bodies including the judiciary.

Students have effectively been silenced after the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Student activists have been banned from attending classes and reformist professors forced to retire as part of a campaign by hard-liners to silence opposition voices.

Students also complain that their families sporadically receive threatening phone calls from unidentified people warning them that the students would be expelled from the university if they continued their pro-democracy activities.

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