Iranian Police Chief Defends Arrests, Opposition Remains Defiant

CAIRO — Tehran’s police chief would not say how many people were arrested during opposition protests that erupted a day earlier in the Iranian capital — in the latest attempt to revive street demonstrations over the country’s disputed election.

The lack of an overwhelming crackdown — despite authorities’ vows to “smash” anyone who joined the marches — could suggest the country’s leadership is hoping Thursday’s protests would be a one-time event and will subsequently weaken.

Several thousands demonstrators marched down Tehran’s main avenues in Thursday’s protests, chanting “down with the dictator” and slogans in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the pro-reform candidate who contends he was defrauded of victory in June 12 presidential elections.

In some locations around the city, police clashed with protesters, charging at them and beating them with batons or firing tear gas, sending young men and women running through choking clouds. But the clampdown was not total, and in some locations, security forces were in heavy numbers but allowed protesters to demonstrate.

The protests, which organizers had planned for one day only, died down by Thursday night, and on Friday there were no demonstrations.

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