The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iran protests swell

Tehran, Nov. 12 (Reuters): Thousands of Iranian students ignored official warnings and demonstrated for the fourth day running today against a dissident’s death sentence and to demand freedom of speech and political reform.

Some 5,000 students gathered at Tehran University, once the hotbed of revolutionary fervour that overthrew the Shah two decades ago, in support of academic Hashem Aghajari, sentenced to hang for questioning clerical rule in the Islamic Republic. “The execution of Aghajari is the execution of the university,” demonstrators chanted. “Political prisoners should be freed.”

The momentum of protests appeared to be growing, with bigger crowds in Tehran each day and demonstrations spreading to the provincial cities of Tabriz, Isfahan, Urumiyeh and Hamedan.

The protests come amid rising political tension in the country of 65 million people as moderate President Mohammad Khatami tries to assert his authority over conservative rivals who control the judiciary, armed forces and broadcast media.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful figure and commander of the armed forces, issued a veiled warning late yesterday to parliament, the government and judiciary to settle their differences.

“The day the three branches are unable or unwilling to settle major problems, the (supreme) leadership will use the popular forces to intervene,” he said.

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