Religious hard-liners shouted down the grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at a state ceremony marking the 21st anniversary of the Iranian spiritual leader's death in protest at his support for Iran's reformist opposition.
In unprecedented scenes, Hassan Khomeini was forced to cut short his homage to his grandfather after being drowned out by a hail of abusive chants.
Crowds shouted "Death to Musavi," in reference to reformist leader Mir Hossein Musavi, according to the hard-line Fars news agency, and chanted slogans in support of Khomeini's successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The outcry, in his grandfather's shrine in Tehran, was in response to Hassan Khomeini's outspoken support for Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi in their insistence that last June's reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was tainted by ballot fraud.
Khomeini, a cleric, addressed the crowd immediately after a speech by Ahmadinejad, whose inauguration ceremony he snubbed in protest last year.
He looked shaken as he appealed for quiet before abandoning his address and leaving the podium. "I apologize to the crowd. Time is very short, but some people are not allowing the ceremony to continue," he said.
Khomeini's humiliation was compounded by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad's fierce condemnation of the reformists, who they said had deviated from the path set out by his grandfather.
Without naming them, Khamenei, who backed the election result and sanctioned the fierce crackdown that followed it, accused Musavi and Karrubi of stressing their closeness to the late ayatollah while straying from his teachings. He also issued an apparent warning by recalling that some of Khomeini's close associates before and after the 1979 revolution had later been executed.
"You cannot find yourself following the path of the imam [Khomeini] but at the same time be in cahoots with those who are against the ideas of the imam," he said. "The yardstick for passing judgment is the present situation. This is the measuring stick for decision-making in the Islamic establishment and the late imam said so."
His comments came after Karrubi accused hard-liners of trying to hijack Khomeini's legacy after he was confronted by hecklers on arriving at the shrine on the evening of June 3. "They speak as if the imam belongs to them only and others have broken their path with him," AFP quoted him as saying.
Karrubi and Musavi have repeatedly emphasized their adherence to Khomeini's principles while maintaining that last year's election was stolen.
In an interview this week published on his website, "Kalemeh," Musavi -- who was prime minister under Khomeini in the 1980s -- said he was unable to "hide my attachment to the imam."
Both reformist leaders have called for peaceful demonstrations to mark next week's anniversary of the election, despite warnings by officials that protests will be harshly dealt with.
written by Robert Tait with material from agency reports