Iranian state television says opposition activists and government loyalists have fought each other at a memorial ceremony for a student killed during anti-government protests in Tehran earlier this week.
State television says the rival groups clashed Wednesday at Tehran University’s arts faculty, where a memorial was underway for the student, Sanee Zhaleh. Iran’s opposition and the government blame each other for Zhaleh’s killing.
The student was one of two people killed Monday as Iranian police used force to disperse thousands of Iranian activists marching in several cities as part of the country’s biggest anti-government protests since 2009.
The state television report says the government loyalists forced the opposition activists to leave Wednesday’s memorial by chanting slogans calling for the death of seditionists.
An Iranian reformist leader who organized Monday’s protests says he is not afraid of calls by conservative lawmakers for him to face the death penalty. In a statement on his website Wednesday, Mehdi Karroubi said he is willing to “pay any price” to bring political change to Iran.
Iranian security forces prevented Karroubi and fellow protest organizer Mir Hossein Mousavi from joining the rallies, which they had called to show solidarity with recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia against authoritarian rulers.
A group of 223 conservative lawmakers issued a statement Tuesday, demanding that both men be prosecuted for sedition, a crime punishable by death. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that the protest organizers will not achieve their goals and predicted that they will see the “dirt fall back on their faces.”
In a live interview on state television, Mr. Ahmadinejad said the anti-government protests show that Iran has “enemies” because it is a nation that wants to “shine and achieve its peak.” He also acknowledged that there is “a lot of animosity, even against the government.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the opposition leaders had fallen into a U.S. “trap,” allowing Washington to exploit their movement to incite unrest inside Iran.
Mousavi and Karroubi also led anti-government protests in 2009 after losing to Mr. Ahmadinejad in a presidential vote they said was rigged to secure his re-election that year. The government denies that charge.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia as an Islamic awakening, akin to the 1979 revolution that ousted Iran’s U.S.-backed shah.