New York Times: In yet another sign of escalating tensions in Iran, pro-government demonstrators shot at the armored car of the country’s most outspoken opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, his Web site Saham News reported Friday.
The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
In yet another sign of escalating tensions in Iran, pro-government demonstrators shot at the armored car of the country’s most outspoken opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, his Web site Saham News reported Friday.
No one was injured Thursday night in the attack, which appears to reflect growing frustration that the brutal government crackdown on dissent in recent months has failed to stop the opposition from lashing out at the country’s leaders and occasionally staging protests that bring tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets.
Mr. Karroubi, a midlevel cleric who ran in the disputed June presidential election, has been pushed and shoved by critics since then, and one threw a shoe at him — a grave insult in Iran. But this was the first time someone shot at him.
The attack occurred in Qazvin, where Mr. Karroubi had traveled to attend a mourning ceremony for eight protesters killed during a demonstration on Dec. 28, his Web site reported. The news agency Fars, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards, reported Mr. Karroubi’s whereabouts shortly after his arrival.
Mr. Karroubi’s Web site said that some 500 pro-government demonstrators gathered outside the building where he was staying with a member of Parliament. They chanted slogans against him and threw bricks and rocks at the third-floor apartment where he was, the Web site said. The Police intervened after four hours to try to help him leave the city, but his armored car was shot twice.
Mr. Karroubi’s son, Hussein Karroubi, said that opposition members saw several senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards of Qazvin Province among the crowd, as well as members of the pro-government Basij militia. He said most were armed.
The younger Mr. Karroubi said the shooting appeared to be aimed at intimidating his father.
“They shot at the two windshields that were bullet-proof to scare him and force him into silence,” he said.
According to the Web site, the elder Mr. Karroubi said that his bodyguards refrained from returning fire.
“If my guards had engaged in shooting, unlike the assailants who shot without fearing arrest, they would have been summoned to court and tried,” he said.
A series of pictures on the pro-government Raja news Web site showed Mr. Karroubi’s black car surrounded by an angry mob throwing rocks. The riot police are shown guarding the car and trying to keep the crowd away as demonstrators chant, “Our city is no place for a traitor,” the Web site reported.
Besides criticizing the election, Mr. Karroubi has publicized damaging accusations of the torture and rape of people detained for protesting against the government. The government later admitted that some protesters had been tortured but has consistently denied the rape charges.
Mr. Karroubi and other opposition leaders have been threatened repeatedly with arrest, but the government has thus far taken only some of their top aides into custody.
In other news, the opposition Web site Jaras reported Friday that Iranian authorities had arrested at least two witnesses who were in the streets on Dec. 27 when the opposition says a police vehicle ran over at least one person during a large demonstration, killing him. A video that has widely circulated online appears to capture the assault on the man.
Jaras added that the two witnesses had been transferred to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran and that their families had been threatened not to give interviews about the charges against them.