Thursday, December 20, 2007
Iran students break campus gate in protest: reportsby Stuart Williams
Published: December 09, 2007
Iranian students chant slogans beneath pictures of fellow students detained by the authorities during a demonstration at Tehran University. Hundreds of Iranian students held a new protest at Tehran University on Sunday, damaging the main gate to allow outsiders into the campus and denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's news agencies reported. (AFP)
TEHRAN (AFP) Hundreds of Iranian students held a new protest at Tehran University on Sunday, damaging the main gate to allow outsiders into the campus and denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's news agencies reported.
The protesters chanted slogans against the president and carried banners calling for the release of three fellow students who have been held since May in a high-profile case, the Fars news agency and state-run IRNA reported.
"The students marched on the gate and damaged it, and this allowed several non-students to enter the campus. The students chanted slogans and carried protesting placards," IRNA reported.
"Ahmadi-Pinochet, Iran will not become Chile!" chanted the protesters, playing on the names of the Iranian president and late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Fars reported.
Pictures published by the student ISNA agency showed the students crowded round the main gate and bending back its iron railings to allow others through.
A dense crowd of hundreds of people then gathered inside the university grounds for the protest, the pictures showed. "Live Free or Die," read one of the banners.
The students also burned a copy of Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the clerical establishment and a bitter foe of the Iranian reformist movement, Fars said.
According to IRNA, anti-riot police were stationed outside the campus but did not intervene. The demonstration had been called by the radical wing of the Office to Foster Unity, a reformist student group, it said.
Unusually, state television's 20:30 (1700 GMT) news bulletin broadcast brief footage of the protest, showing the students yelling in excitement as they tried to open the university gate.
There has been a string of demonstrations at Tehran universities in past months as students protest against the replacement of liberal professors, at pressure on activists by the authorities and the detention of three students.
The demonstration -- the second within a week at Tehran University after dozens of students held a similar protest on Tuesday -- appeared to be one of the largest held this year.
Mehdi Arabshahi, a member of the central board of the Office to Foster Unity, said that 1,500 people joined the latest protest, although there was no confirmation of this figure from Iranian media.
"They protested against the detention of the students, the oppressive policies of the government and advocated rights for all Iranians," he told AFP, saying that the participants included liberals and ethnic Kurds.
Arabshahi said the protest lasted for more than two hours after starting at 12:00 pm (0830 GMT) and that it was peaceful.
The demonstration came a day after the intelligence ministry said it had arrested an unspecified number of people using "fake student cards to hold an illegal demonstration" at Tehran University.
The timing of those arrests was not given, but it is likely that they took place before Friday which was the annual students' day in Iran.
The case of the three detained students from Tehran's Amir Kabir University has become a major issue for the protesting students.
Held since May, the trio were given jail sentences of up to three years in October on charges of printing anti-Islamic images in four student newspapers -- accusations they vehemently deny.
Reformist leaders such as former president Mohammad Khatami have openly called for the three to be released, but hardliners have said the gravity of their crimes means they must stay behind bars.
Meanwhile, a group of Islamist students held a counter-demonstration outside the offices of the Iranian judiciary to protest against the Tehran University gathering, Fars reported.
"We are astonished that this is not prevented when they are growing bolder by the day," one demonstrator told the agency.
© 2007 Agence France-Presse