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Iran frees more detainees of ethnic unrest

Ahvaz, April 21, IRNA-Judiciary officials released Wednesday night 155 people arrested following ethnic troubles in this southwestern Iranian city, the city's prosecutor said Thursday.

He said a total of 333 people had been detained in the unrest which broke out last Friday after a letter attributed to a former vice president called for diluting ethnic Arab population in the region.

"Given that some of the families of the detainees have come up to pay bail and place surety, we think more of the accused will be released in the next 48 hours," Iraj Amirkhani said, adding most of the detainees aged below 20 years.

"All of these people have been arrested at the scene of the troubles for destroying public property," he added.

Iranian officials have scrambled to denounce the letter, attributed to former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, as fake.

Abtahi himself has denied having written such a letter.

"Anyone who reads the letter will realize that such a decision ... the Supreme National Security Council or the president, cannot be implemented in Iran," he said, adding "I have never had the prerogative to order a change of demographic composition." Certain neighborhoods of Ahvaz witnessed clashes between police and ethnic Arabs last Friday night, in which several state buildings, including banks and police cars were damaged and at least three people injured.

Iran's Culture Ministry ordered Monday the temporary closure of the Al-Jazeera bureau in Tehran, pending a probe into the possible actions of the Arabic television channel to provoke subversive elements in the troubles.

The secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, highlighted the role of 'foreign elements' in the unrest, saying, "The Al-Jazeera channel was also involved in the troubles and as among the instigators of the incident." He said Intelligence Ministry had launched an investigation to identify 'certain individuals and groups that have played a role in this problem as well as the instigators' of the unrest.

... Payvand News - 4/21/05 ... --

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