Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral sees hundreds of thousands challenge the Iranian regime
Opposition supporters chanted anti-government slogans in Iran’s holy city of Qom on Monday after the funeral of Ayatollah Montazeri.
Mourners wearing green items, a symbol of the protests that followed last June’s presidential election, chanted slogans similar to those used in the post-ballot demonstrations.
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There were clashes between hardline pro-government vigilantes and mourners, reports said. “Ansar Hezbollah groups entered the crowd and wanted to derail the slogans and disrupt the ceremony. They went away after clashing with some people,” Rahesabz website reported.
Presidential challengers Mir-Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi were among those present. “Hundreds of thousands from all over the country” gathered today outside Montazeri’s house in the city of Qom to take part, opposition leader Mr Mousavi’s Kaleme.org website said.
Ayatollah Montazeri, once an ally of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was designated to succeed him as Supreme Leader before the two fell out over the execution of opposition members shortly before Khomeini died in 1989. The post of Supreme Leader has since been held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In September, authorities arrested three grandsons of Montazeri after he urged the clergy to speak out against Iran’s leadership and the crackdown that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The opposition alleged that the June election was marred by fraud, a charge that Ahmadinejad denied.
Kaleme said people were chanting slogans in support of opposition leaders Mr Mousavi and Mr Karoubi.
It quoted one slogan as saying, in reference to the green colour of the pro-reform movement in Iran: “Today is the day of mourning and the green Iranian nation is the owner of this mourning.”
Kaleme said people were carrying various “green symbols”, an apparent reference to green wristbands and other items in the same colour.
It said there was a “considerable” presence of security forces, but that there had so far been no report of any clashes.
Ayatollah Montazeri’s death on Saturday coincides with tensions rising once again in the Islamic Republic, six months after the disputed June presidential poll plunged the major oil producer into political crisis.
The cleric was named in the 1980s to succeed revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s top authority, but fell out with the leadership. He was under house arrest in Qom from 1998 until 2003 and became a respected opposition figure.