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Riot Police Crack Down on Mourners in Iran

July 30, 2009 at 8:02 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Now, that new burst of protest in Iran. We begin with a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Defying the authorities once again, thousands of Iranians went to the Martyrs’ Cemetery south of Tehran today. They were marking the traditional 40-day mourning period following the shooting of the student Neda Agha-Soltan during an earlier protest.

The riot police were also there. They beat with batons the opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, seen here in the white turban. They prevented the opposition leader, Mir Hussein Mousavi, from getting out of his car, but one eyewitness said some police appeared to be now on the side of the protestors.

ANONYMOUS EYEWITNESS: I saw with my eyes at least 10 riot police who were encouraging people. And they were sometimes hiddenly, clandestinely, showing victory signs to people, and they had plastic batons with them. They had official green uniforms, and they were trying to show people that they are with them.

LINDSEY HILSUM: But some protestors were injured. Neda’s death has become a potent symbol for those Iranians protesting not just what they see as a fraudulent election, but also attacks on demonstrators and the alleged torture of detainees.

The mobile phone footage of Neda Agha-Soltan as she lay dying drew world attention. The man on the left with black hair is [a second eyewitness], who tried to save her life. He’s now in the U.K. He told me that the crowd grabbed the man they believed had shot Neda and took his I.D. card.

SECOND EYEWITNESS: They seized him, and they took his I.D. card, and I heard him shouting, “I didn’t want to kill her.” And people started shouting that he’s a Basij.

LINDSEY HILSUM: For legal reasons, we can’t show the name or face on this I.D. card, which the doctor says is the man he saw and which was posted online by an unknown person, nor can we corroborate his account.

So this is the man who you saw seized?

SECOND EYEWITNESS: Yes, and the person who was shouting, “I didn’t want to kill her.” This card shows that he is a member of Heyat Razmandegan. Heyat Razmandegan is an organization controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. It’s somehow similar to the Basij.

LINDSEY HILSUM: It’s like a paramilitary force?


LINDSEY HILSUM: The Iranian authorities deny that Neda was killed by a member of the security forces.

Riot police on motorbikes, some carrying sticks, were deployed downtown today near the Grand Mosala Mosque, where the authorities had forbidden people to gather.

They came anyway, mourning not only Neda, but others who have died during six weeks of anti-government protest. Some people were beaten. There were reports of riot police breaking car windows, and tear gas was fired.

In the past week, more M.P.s and mullahs have started to question the methods the security forces are using to suppress demonstrations. The protestors say they’ll be on the streets again next week, when President Ahmadinejad is due to be sworn in for his second term in office.

JIM LEHRER: We get further reporting from Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times. Margaret Warner talked with him earlier this evening from Beirut. He covered the Iranian election and post-election protests in Tehran.