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TEHRAN, IRAN, 31-DEC-1998: Iranian demonstrators show pictures of opposition leader Daryoush Forhar and his wife Parvaneh Eskandariar who were killed last month in Iran during a demonstration in Tehran to protest against recent series of murders of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals December 31. The protests turned violent when the demonstrators clashed with the police and several people were injured. [Photo by Behrouz Mehri, AFP]

Several injured in Tehran clash between protestors, police

TEHRAN, Dec 31 (AFP) - Several people were injured here Thursday during a clash between police and demonstrators protesting against a recent series of murders of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals.

Witnesses said the clashes erupted after a memorial service held to mark the 40th day since the fatal stabbing of nationalist leader Daryush Foruhar and his wife.

Around 5,000 mourners attended the ceremony at a mosque in central Tehran.

Several groups of demonstrators, defying police orders, then took to the streets for a march, chanting "Death to despotism" and "Freedom, security ... this is our slogan."

But they were confronted by baton-wielding riot police in front of the Fakhr mosque and in the ensuing clash several people were injured and several others arrested.

Several women were injured in a stampede as the police tried to forcibly disperse the crowd.

Foruhar and his wife were stabbed to death in their Tehran home by unidentified intruders on November 22.

The killings were followed by the kidnappings and murders of two secular writers, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh, in early December.

Another intellectual, Majid Sharif, was also found dead under mysterious circumstances around the same time, but the authorities said he had died of a heart attack.

The memorial service, attended by many members and sympathizers of liberal and nationalist opposition movements, turned into a meeting of solidarity with the victims after several speakers made fiery speeches against hardliners in the Islamic regime.

Bahram Namazi, a spokesman for Foruhar's Iranian Nation's Party, accused "branches" in Iran's intelligence services of having a part in the murders.

The clashes occurred immediately after a brief speech delivered by the Foruhar's daughter, Parastu, as young demonstrators holding candles started to march in the direction of the nearby Foruhar house.

Several placards signed by Foruhar's party, which is banned here, were posted in front of the mosque reading: "With Foruhar's blood the tree of freedom was irrigated."

Some demonstrators carried pictures of Mohammad Mossadeq, father of Iran's nationalist movement and Foruhar's mentor, as well as that of Mokhtari.

Among those attending the memorial ceremony were Ebrahim Yazdi, former foreign minister and leader of the Islamic liberal Iran's Freedom Movement, academics and intellectuals.

The killings have provoked a wave of protest in Iran and demands for an official investigation.

Several liberal opposition leaders submitted an open letter to President Mohammad Khatami on Thursday demanding information on the results of the probe.

An official in Khatami's office recalled that the president has assigned a special team to investigate the "suspicious murders," pledging that information on the outcome will be made public "if it doesn't hurt the proceedings."

The authorities have condemned the campaign of violence against dissidents and pledged to investigate, although the police are yet to divulge any findings.

The conservative-led judiciary has blamed the murders on "plots by foreign enemy," but Khatami has said only that they are the work of an "organized crime ring."

The presidential press office said a special committee set up earlier this month by Khatami to probe the murders briefed him on Thursday on the trend of the investigation.

"The committee said it had made good progress in connection with the recent suspicious murders, so much that it has pave dthe way for practical action in the investigation," it said, without elaborating.

The president demanded "greater speed in the process of the probe so that the public could be informed of the results," it added.

The official IRNA news agency reported earlier that a court originally assigned the cases had forwarded them to a military tribunal after deciding a special investigation was needed.

But an unnamed military spokesman told IRNA that the cases "have nothing to do with the armed forces or the police."


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