DUBAI — Iranian security forces clashed with mourners in the city of Isfahan on Wednesday, according to opposition Web sites, signaling a possible hardening by Tehran in its response to protests following the death of a dissident cleric.
Security forces beat back crowds with batons in Isfahan, about 200 miles southeast of Tehran, after mourners gathered at a central mosque for a memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, opposition sites and news agencies reported. Mr. Montazeri, an architect of the Islamic Republic, fell out with the conservative clerical establishment in the late 1980s and had been a critic of the government ever since.
During the six months of protests that followed contested presidential elections in June, he became a spiritual guide for the opposition movement. News of his death over the weekend sent mourners to the holy city of Qom, where he had lived. Protesters turned the memorial into antigovernment demonstrations.
Protesters also were expected to try to use this week’s Ashura commemorations of one of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures, as an excuse to demonstrate. The commemoration culminates on Sunday.
Since Mr. Montazeri’s death, there have been isolated reports of skirmishes, but not the sort of bloody clashes between police and demonstrators that marked earlier protests. Early Wednesday, however, Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moqadam warned opposition supporters of confrontation if …