Iran General NewsThirty-six army officers arrested in Iran over protest plan

Thirty-six army officers arrested in Iran over protest plan

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ImageThe Guardian: The Iranian army has arrested 36 officers who planned to attend last week's Friday prayer sermon by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani in their military uniforms as an act of political defiance, according to Farsi-language websites.

The Guardian

Officers planned to attend sermon by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani in military uniform

Robert Tait

ImageThe Iranian army has arrested 36 officers who planned to attend last week's Friday prayer sermon by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani in their military uniforms as an act of political defiance, according to Farsi-language websites.

The officers intended the gesture to show solidarity with the demonstrations against last month's presidential election result, which was won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but which has been clouded by allegations of mass fraud.

Rafsanjani used the sermon at Tehran university to challenge the authority of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by questioning the result in the presence of the defeated reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and tens of thousands of his supporters.

Security forces used teargas and arrested dozens of those in attendance in a sign of the authorities' nervousness over the event.

The officers were rounded up on Friday morning by army intelligence agents who had caught wind of the plan. They are said to have been arrested at their homes and taken to an unknown location.

Peiknet, a Farsi website, said the officers had agreed the action at a weekly prayer meeting the night before at the Shah Abdolazim religious shrine in Shahr-e Rey, on Tehran's southern outskirts. "They decided to attend the Friday prayer in their military clothes as a sign of protest against the cruel massacre of people by the basij and revolutionary guards and to show their objection against this process and support for the people," the site said. It named 24 of the officers, who included two majors, four captains, eight lieutenants, six sergeants and four warrant officers.

The arrests expose the authorities' sensitivity to signs of mutiny among the various branches of the security forces.

Reports last month suggested that a senior revolutionary guard commander, General Ali Fazli, had been arrested for refusing to obey orders to suppress protests against election result. The reports were later denied but some sources say Fazli remains under pressure to toe the line.

While the army is considered to be secondary in importance to the revolutionary guards in the regime's military hierarchy, it is still under the command of Khamenei, who yesterday appointed a cleric, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem, as the new head of its political ideology section.

Khamenei has declared the election result fair and overseen a fierce crackdown that has led to at least 2,000 arrests and a death toll the government puts at 20 but which some human rights groups say could be in the hundreds.

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