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Iran's government slams 'crimes' of vigilantes, bans further protests

A senior government official on Monday flayed vigilantes for 'crimes' committed during their recent raid of a university hostel west of Tehran, but said Iran had banned further demonstrations outside universities, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters that he hoped the judiciary would "legally deal with all those who disrupted the public peace and security during recent riots".

Asked whether the government would allow students to take out protest rallies during next month's anniversary of July 9, 1999 unrest, he said that any protest outside universities was banned.

"... Interior Ministry is opposed to any gathering outside university campuses and such a permit has not been issued by the government," Ramezanzadeh said.

He, however, stated that "the government will not interfere in any gathering held inside universities".

A peaceful gathering at the Tehran University campus, held in protest to a court's banning of a newspaper in July 1999, degenerated into several days of clashes after vigilantes attacked students.

Ramezanzadeh said, "The government and many students are still dissatisfied since the masterminds of the July 9, 1999 disaster have not been properly dealt with."

"We expect that those behind recent events and the culprits involved in July 9, 1999 crimes, irrespective of their factional affiliation, are confronted," he added.

Press has said plain-clothes vigilantes had recently attacked a university dormitory in Tarasht, west of Tehran, and violently beaten up students, in addition to destroying their personal belonging.

The attack followed a peaceful gathering of students in protest to perceived privatization of state universities, which officials have rejected.

"For an event similar to what happened in Tarasht dormitory, no description other than crime can suffice," Ramezanzadeh said, adding the crimes seemed to be 'organized'

According to the official, police have arrested 470 people, including an unspecified number of vigilantes, in connection with recent unrest in Tehran and several other cities.

"Some of these detentions have been made by police and Information (Intelligence) Ministry on the order of the judiciary and legal proceedings are under way," Ramezanzadeh said.

"We have no information about arrests outside this framework," he said in response to the alleged query that some nationalist-religious opposition elements had also been arrested on charges of inciting the riots.

President Mohammad Khatami has pledged that the Iranian government would not tolerate vigilante groups, but he has defended police for confronting rioters.

Iranian officials have also hit out at US leaders for cheering the troubles as well as western media, which they have said, were hyping up the protests.

The Iranian president, who came into office first in 1997 on the back of an overwhelming student support to uphold the rule of law and establish a civil society, has also backed students' rights to protest.

"If we accept democracy, it requires that protests are also made," the cleric has said, adding "what divides democratic communities from undemocratic societies is the existence of such protests".

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that Washington was behind riots in the Islamic Republic and urged the nation and state officials to remain vigilant.

Meanwhile, Tehran police chief, Morteza Talaie, has said maximum security had been restored following several days of unrest.

"From our vantage point, there is no security problem in the country and the society remains now at the peak of being secure," he told a gathering to mark the national 'guilds day' this week.

Talaie has also vowed that police would "stand up with full force to those who seek to jeopardize the country's security".

MKO members among those arrested in recent Iran unrest: press

Some of those arrested during recent unrest in Tehran and several other Iranian cities are members of the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), press Tuesday quoted Tehran's chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi as saying, IRNA reported.

He, however, did not say how many members of the outlawed group, described as hypocrites by the Islamic Republic, had been arrested.

Mortazavi, who served once as the head of Tehran press court, also said that 'most of those arrested in recent events are thugs and hooligans as well as culprits hold records for repeated offenses'.

"Meanwhile, a few others who were intending to turn the event into an anti-revolutionary current under the name of students and through links with foreign elements have been identified and arrested," the Persian daily Javan (Youth) cited him as saying.

Mortazavi said 32 students were also among those held in custody, but categorically rejected claims that some of the students had been kidnapped, the paper added.

"According to the investigation, some of those claimed to have gone missing had participated at their exams and this rumor is floated by those groups which want to incite (the mood at) the university campus," the official said.

Police have seized some 'advanced and special fire arms' from those arrested, Mortazavi said without elaborating.

They have also confiscated documents from the houses of several outlawed nationalist-religious activists, which showed they were in contact with certain circles abroad and regularly received 'special' directives during the unrest, he added.

Iran's government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Monday he did not know if any nationalist-religious members, who have affiliation to the liberal Freedom Movement of Iran, had been arrested in the unrest.

Ramezanzadeh also said Tehran welcomed French police's arrest of MKO members, but rejected reports that Iran had officially asked Paris to extradite them.

"It is natural if culprits of a certain country are arrested in another country, their country of origin demands their extradition, but such a demand has not officially been made yet," he added.

The official also repeated Iran's pledge that it would treat with 'Islamic compassion' all those 'who have been kept in the camps of Munafeqin (Tehran's description for MKO) by force'.

"They will be treated according to the law and they can be rest assured that the treatment will also involve Islamic compassion and they will have no special problem in this country," he said.

The amnesty, however, did not include 'Munafeqin ringleaders who have directly been involved in terrorist operations and crimes against the Iranian people', Ramezanzadeh said.

Last Tuesday, French police conducted a series of dawn raids in a Paris region against the terrorist organization, whose fate remains in balance since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi Baath regime provided sanctuary to the group which has carried out a series of terrorist bombings and assassinations targeting both Iranian officials and civilians since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

MKO was said to be party to the Baath regime's suppression of opposition in Iraq. US military reached a ceasefire agreement with the terrorist group at the end of the American-led war in Iraq. Tehran has been following Washington's interaction with MKO since then.

... Payvand News - 6/24/03 ... --

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