Iran General NewsIranians mark festival despite police presence

Iranians mark festival despite police presence

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ImageReuters: Iranians on Tuesday celebrated an ancient national festival despite the heavy presence of security forces to discourage anti-government protests. ImageTEHRAN, March 16 (Reuters) – Iranians on Tuesday celebrated an ancient national festival despite the heavy presence of security forces to discourage anti-government protests.

Police chiefs had warned the opposition against using Chaharshanbeh Soori, held a few days before the start of the Iranian New Year on March 21, as an opportunity to organise protests.

Some opposition websites reported sporadic clashes between opposition supporters and police in several parts of Tehran and elsewhere but the reports could not be independently confirmed.

"Despite the stern warning of security forces and the heavy presence of police… Iranians celebrated the festival. Security forces clashed with people in different parts of Tehran," the opposition Jaras website said.

Deputy Police Commander Ahmad Reza Radan said 50 people were arrested on Tuesday for "making trouble for others", the student news agency ISNA reported.

Police have said anyone arrested on Tuesday would be kept in jail until the end of the New Year holiday.

Iran has experienced the worst domestic strife since the 1979 revolution after opposition protesters took to the streets to protest against the election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June.

The opposition says the vote was rigged to secure the re-election of the hardline president. The authorities deny vote fraud and say it was the healthiest election the country has had in three decades.

Most of those detained since the election have been released, although more than 80 have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years. Two people tried after the election were executed.

In a separate report on Tuesday, ISNA said the judiciary had issued verdicts on 86 people arrested after the June vote but did not say what the verdicts were.

ISNA said the charges against them included acting against national security, being members of anti-revolutionary groups and attending illegal rallies.

Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbeh Soori, held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Persian calendar year, by jumping over bonfires and setting off firecrackers. (Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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