Police, Protesters Clash Anew in Iran
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JIM LEHRER: The authorities in Iran beat back new protests today with a show of force. They used tear gas and fired bullets into the air after a weekend of bloodshed. The government said at least 17 people have died now in demonstrations since the country’s presidential election.
We begin our lead story coverage with a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSAY HILSUM: They tried to gather in Hafe-e-Tir Square this afternoon, several thousand people braving the heavy presence of militia and riot police, helicopters overhead.
The opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, said on his Web site that protesting against lies and fraud was the people’s right, but he wasn’t there himself. A senior judge suggested that Mr. Mousavi should now be arrested.
Pictures were posted online today showing police, dressed in black, and Basij militia, in green fatigues, beating and arresting two men. They seemed to be in a car park or garage. Unknown people filmed from above.
The police pull up the first man’s T-shirt over his head to blindfold him and lead him away. Then, they start to tie up the second man. Half a minute later, women scream and a shot is heard. The policemen react by pointing at the second man’s head.
We don’t know what happened next, but we do know that the Revolutionary Guard issued a statement today saying they would confront “in a revolutionary way” rioters and those who break the law.
A young woman killed on Saturday is emerging as an icon of the protest movement. Neda Soltani is seen here to the left of the man with the gray ponytail, watching the protests. A few minutes later, she is seen dying on the streets, apparently shot by a Basij militiaman.
Iranians at home and abroad are posting online tributes. Security officials reportedly prevented her family from holding a public funeral today. White flowers mark her grave.
Information is trickling out from other cities, these pictures apparently from Tabriz, Mir Hossein Mousavi’s home city, on Saturday. There have now been hundreds, possibly thousands of arrests across the country, the authorities saying they picked up 457 people yesterday in Tehran alone.
Iranian government's response
LINDSAY HILSUM: The foreign minister met the country's Security and Foreign Policy Commission today to discuss the elections and subsequent unrest. The official view is that all this is the fault of foreign countries.
HASAN QASHQAVI, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman: We think that the people's glorious turnout and the 85 percent participation of 40 million people in this election is a beautiful diamond that shines from the pinnacle of Iranians' dignity. We will not allow Western officials and media to turn this diamond into pieces of rock and give it to a bunch of opportunists to break the windows of our home.
LINDSAY HILSUM: The Guardian Council admitted today that there might have been a problem with 3 million ballots. The spokesman saying in a telephone interview that, in 50 constituencies, the votes cast exceeded the number of voters.
ABBAS-ALI KADKHODAEI, Guardian Council spokesman: This is a claim brought up by some candidates, and we're following it. However, our initial follow-ups show that no major irregularities have occurred, and it is better to say that there were no irregularities at all.
LINDSAY HILSUM: But these protests have gone far beyond vote-counting. On Saturday, people were filmed burning the image of the supreme leader. Whatever happens next, the credibility of Iran's system of government has been seriously undermined.