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Fresh Opposition Protests, Clashes Persist In Iran

Protesters and Iranian students face off against riot police in Tehran on December 8.
(RFE/RL) -- Reports from Iran say protesters have clashed with supporters of the regime on university campuses for a second straight day.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports that the protests started at a Tehran engineering school, where members of the hard-line Basij militia attacked students with tear gas.

According to the student website "Khabarnameh Amir Kabir," militia members were transported to the university on buses.

New clashes were also reported between students and militia at Shahid Behshti University in the capital.

A number of photos and video footage of protests said to be from Tehran and other sites across Iran on December 8 have been posted on the Internet. One carried the sound of protesters chanting: "Death to the regime that lies to people! Dictator! Dictator! This is our last warning! The Green Movement is ready to rise up!"

WATCH: Youtube video purporting to show a student protest at Kerman University in south-central Iran on December 8. The authenticity of the video could not be confirmed.

State news agency IRNA reported fresh violence involving supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi at Tehran University. It described "rioters wearing green wristbands" gathering in the early morning at the university's engineering college to protest the previous day's crackdown by authorities.

Regime critics have adopted Musavi's campaign green to symbolize their movement and a refusal to concede defeat in the June presidential election over what they regard as gross irregularities.

IRNA said supporters of Musavi, who was President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's leading challenger in that vote, threw stones at authorities.

AP quoted opposition websites saying that masked motorcyclists who were “likely hard-line militiamen” laid siege to Musavi’s Tehran office, preventing his exit before aides whisked him back inside.

Musavi’s wife, Zahna Rahnavard, was attacked by hard-line students with pepper spray on December 7, pro-Musavi websites claimed.

Many Detained

Morteza Hosseinyari, a student and member of the student organization Tahkin Vahdat, told Radio Farda how his fellow student, Majid Tavakkoli, was arrested by authorities after he addressed a crowd of protesters at the engineering school.

"Unfortunately we are not aware of the number of ordinary people who have been arrested by the regime, but Mr. Tavakkoli was arrested upon making a speech at Tehran Polytechnic by a member of the security forces," Hosseinyari said.

As the new protests erupted, the fallout from the previous day’s clashes became clearer.

Opponents took advantage of the traditional Students Day holiday on December 7 to protest Ahmadinejad's disputed June reelection and vent their anger at the country’s leadership.

Protests were organized at universities across the country, and many demonstrators were met with tear gas and arrest.

Tehran police chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh said 204 demonstrators -- 165 men and 39 women -- were arrested in December 7 protests for "disrupting public order."

News agencies later quoted city prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi saying that 86 were released "after they expressed remorse."

Foreign journalists have been ordered by Iranian authorities to remain in their offices from December 7-9, making it difficult for the international community to monitor events in the country.

Internet connections have slowed and mobile-phone networks have experienced problems since December 6, echoing similar communications difficulties during the massive street protests and official crackdown that followed the June vote, including mass trials.

‘No Tolerance’

As the second day of clashes gathered steam, the country's chief prosecutor warned Tehran's local authorities that he expected opposition leaders to face the full force of the law if they encouraged further protests.

The IRNA news agency quoted Gholam Hossein Mohsen Ejeie as saying that "from today on, there will be no tolerance."

Tehran Governor Morteza Tamaddon blamed Musavi directly for the two days of unrest.

Musavi, a former prime minister and would-be reformer who has insisted he finished ahead of Ahmadinejad in the presidential vote but was a victim of massive fraud, had issued an Internet statement on December 6 saying the reform movement could not be crushed by any official clampdown.

International reaction has been critical of the government's crackdown on protesters. France strongly condemned what it called the "unacceptable" violence by Iranian authorities, as did EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, who were preparing to issue a full statement of their position.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the "violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations" had led EU members to "significantly strengthen the language" used in their draft statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Iran to respect the right to protest, saying it is a "fundamental freedom."

In Washington, White House officials have also expressed concern.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on December 7 that the United States is “disturbed any time we see people who are trying to exercise their peaceful democratic rights being prevented from doing so by means of cutting off their access to information, cutting off their ability to communicate their views, and by arbitrary arrest and detention."

Written by Prague Central Newsroom, with reporting from Radio Farda correspondents in Prague and Washington