TEHRAN: A funeral for an Iranian pro-reform cleric was hijacked by opposition supporters who chanted slogans in support of their two leaders under house arrest for more than two years, opposition websites reported Wednesday.
Tuesday’s funeral for Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, 87, in the central city of Isfahan was attended by number of reformist figures, including Hassan Rowhani, a candidate in the June 14 presidential election, website Kaleme reported.
The Sahamnews website posted a YouTube video which showed a huge crowd shouting slogans demanding the release from house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
The Kaleme website, close to Mousavi, said they also chanted “Death to dictatorship”.
The demonstration was reminiscent of the massive street protests led by Mousavi and Karroubi in 2009 in the wake of the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The two men claimed Ahmadinejad had been fraudulently elected and demanded a fresh vote, while massive street protests by their supporters were brutally crushed by the authorities.
They were later accused of “sedition” by the regime and both placed under house arrest in February 2011.
The incident comes as Iran prepares to hold its first presidential election in four years, with only one reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, having passed the rough vetting process of the Guardians Council. The other seven standing in the race are mostly conservative figures.
Following Tuesday’s funeral, Taheri’s office called for calm and criticised the “slogans used … by a small number” of people which it said went against the will of the ayatollah, Iranian media reported.
Rowhani, a moderate considered close to former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, is expected to garner support from some pro-reform voters after moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was disqualified from running.
Several Western countries have criticised Rafsanjani’s disqualification, saying the election is being engineered to ensure a candidate faithful to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is voted in.
Earlier this week, a number of people were arrested at a Rowhani political rally in Tehran after activists carried portraits of Mousavi and chanted slogans in his favour. Most of them have since been released, according to media reports.