- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TEHRAN | Hard-line militiamen firing tear gas and throwing stones stormed a crowd of thousands of university students protesting for a second day Tuesday, as Iran threatened a tougher crackdown on the opposition after the biggest anti-government demonstrations in months.

More than 200 people were arrested in Tehran on Monday during protests by tens of thousands at universities nationwide, and Iran’s top prosecutor warned further unrest would not be tolerated. He hinted authorities could even pursue the top opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, an escalation the government has so far balked at in Iran’s postelection turmoil.

Masked motorcyclists - likely hard-line militiamen - harassed Mr. Mousavi at his Tehran office Tuesday. An angry Mr. Mousavi confronted them, daring them, “Kill me!” before being hustled away by aides, according to pro-opposition Web sites.

Authorities appear concerned that the protest movement could pick up new steam after Monday’s demonstrations, in which students clashed with police and militiamen in the streets of Tehran.

A fierce crackdown since the summer crushed the mass protests that erupted after June’s disputed presidential election. But Monday’s unrest showed how students have revitalized the movement. They showed an increased boldness, openly breaking the biggest taboo in Iran, burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.

The protests spilled over into a second day Tuesday. Several thousand students rallied in Tehran University, chanting slogans and waving Iranian flags in front of the Engineering College when they were assaulted by hard-line Basij militiamen, witnesses said. At least one student was dragged away, the witnesses said.

Footage posted on the Internet, said to be from Tuesday, showed the crowd of students sitting in front of the college building, many wearing surgical masks and scarves over their faces against gas or to hide their identities. They clapped and chanted “death to the dictator” and insults against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters, saying “Ahmadi came up short, he brought out brainless youth.”

They are then seen fleeing as Basijis rush after them, firing tear gas and throwing stones. Students jostled in the crowd to get away, some crying out in warning, “Basiji, Basiji,” while women screamed, “God is great.”

About a dozen students also clashed with riot police on the streets outside the university, witnesses said. The witnesses spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing retribution. Foreign journalists have been barred from covering protests.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday’s demonstrations and would be handed over to the judiciary. There was no immediate word on the number of arrests outside Tehran.

Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, warned that the judiciary will no longer tolerate protests.

“So far, we have shown restraint. From today, no leniency will be applied,” he said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

When asked at a news conference whether the judiciary will pursue Mr. Mousavi, he said, “We will not tolerate anyone who commits actions against security, and we will confront them,” according to the Fars news agency. He also suggested prosecutors could go after Mahdi Hashemi, the son of the most powerful supporter of the opposition in the clerical hierarchy, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Hard-line clerics and commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guard have called for Mr. Mousavi’s arrest, accusing him of fueling protests and conspiring against Iran’s clerical leadership. Arresting Mr. Mousavi or other top opposition leaders would likely spark greater turmoil.

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