IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Reports: Iran bans services for dissident cleric

Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for a leading dissident cleric, with the exception of those in his birthplace and the holy city of Qom, Web sites reported.
/ Source: Reuters

Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for a leading dissident cleric, with the exception of those in his birthplace and the holy city of Qom, opposition Web sites reported on Thursday.

The reports on the Kaleme and Parlemannews Web sites came a day after they and other pro-reform Web sites said security forces had clashed with supporters of late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who were gathering for such a service in the city of Isfahan.

Montazeri, a government critic who was born in the central town of Najafabad, died on Saturday in the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom, where vast crowds attended his funeral procession on Monday, some chanting anti-government slogans.

Meanwhile, the semi-official Fars news agency reported a reformist former government spokesman detained after Iran's disputed June election had been sentenced to six years in jail.

It said Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the vote, was sentenced by a court on charges including acting against national security, propaganda against the Islamic system and possessing classified documents.

"Based on the court's decision Ramezanzadeh was given a six-year obligatory jail sentence," Fars quoted a Revolutionary court statement as saying. It did not say when the verdict was issued. Revolutionary courts usually handle security cases.

Thousands of people were arrested after the election, which the opposition says was rigged in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's favor. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 have received jail sentences of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the vote, the judiciary says.

Strict restrictions
Montazeri's death occurred in the tense run-up to Ashura on December 27, a politically important Shiite religious commemoration that offers the opposition another opportunity to show its strength.

That day coincides with the traditional seventh day of mourning for Montazeri, when more memorial services are usually held.

"According to an announcement by the Supreme National Security Council, with the exception of Qom and Najafabad, the holding of any meeting (memorial service) for Montazeri will be forbidden throughout the country," Kaleme said.

As an example, it said a planned memorial service in the city of Kashan, south of Tehran, was banned on Wednesday.

Montazeri, an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution and a spiritual patron of the opposition, was a fierce critic of the hardline clerical establishment who denounced Ahmadinejad's re-election in June as fraudulent.

Reports of violent protests
On Wednesday, opposition Web sites said security forces armed with batons and tear gas clashed with Montazeri supporters in Isfahan and nearby Najafabad.

Despite scores of arrests and security crackdowns, opposition protests have repeatedly flared up since the vote. A senior local official denied reports of clashes in Isfahan, blaming foreign media of "staging a psychological war" against the clerical establishment by publishing such reports.

Iranian media reported Tehran would from next month ban banknotes which have been scribbled upon, a move one conservative Web site said was in response to the appearance of political slogans on some of them.

Expressions in support of moderate opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi have occasionally been cropping up on the Islamic Republic's banknotes since the disputed election.