Mourners Of Iranian Cleric Protest During Funeral
by The Associated Press
December 21, 2009
Tens of thousands of Iranian mourners turned the funeral procession of the country's most senior dissident cleric into an anti-government protest Monday, chanting "death to the dictator" and slogans in support of the opposition amid heavy security.
Witnesses said security forces clamped down in Iran's holy city of Qom where massive crowds streamed in for the funeral rites for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday at age 87.
One opposition Web site reported clashes outside Montazeri's home between security forces and mourners, who threw stones. Iranian authorities have barred foreign media from covering the rites, and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest.
Montazeri's death pushed Iranian authorities into a difficult spot. They were obliged to pay respects to one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But officials also worried that Montazeri's memorials could become new rallying points for opposition demonstrations. The ayatollah broke with Iran's clerical leadership and became a vehement critic, denouncing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling the postelection crackdown the work of a dictatorship.