- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched through the streets of Tehran for a fourth consecutive day Thursday, many wearing black and carrying trays of black dates in a traditional sign of mourning for the estimated 30 protesters killed by security forces since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12.

The protesters listened to brief remarks from Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister who many Iranians believe was the real victor in the election.

Photos posted online showed Mr. Mousavi talking with a bullhorn to demonstrators crammed into Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Square, named for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.

On Friday, Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is scheduled to address noontime prayers participants in downtown Tehran in what looms as a possibly violent showdown between protesters and the government.

Friday is “judgment day” for the weeklong protest, the demonstrators chanted as they marched in a column several miles long through downtown Tehran.

The protesters encouraged each other to show up early at Friday prayers and to grab seats nearest to the speaker so they can convey their message of protest in a way that Ayatollah Khamenei — and Iranian state television, which usually broadcasts the sermon live — cannot ignore.

The demonstrators chanted “saff-e- avval” meaning “first row.”

An Iranian camera operator who asked to be identified only by his first name, Hossein, told The Washington Times by telephone that the television picture is engineered “to amplify the voices of people who sit in the middle and front rows as these positions are almost reserved for high-ranking officials and zealous supporters of the regime.”

Many of the protesters carried pictures of soccer players from Iran’s World Cup qualifying team who wore green wristbands in their match Wednesday against South Korea in Seoul in a show of support for Mr. Mousavi, who adopted green as his campaign color.

Demonstrations have taken place in a number of Iranian cities besides Tehran.

The Association of Human Rights Activists in Iran, a leading Iranian human rights group, has put the death toll at more than 30 since June 12, while the government has acknowledged seven deaths.

Security forces have also detained several hundred opposition activists, including Ibrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister who was taken from his hospital bed Wednesday but was returned there Thursday as his health deteriorated.

Others arrested include former Cabinet officials under Mohammad Khatami, a reformer who was president from 1997 until 2005.

Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian specialist on the clergy who is now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a virulent opponent of Mr. Ahmadinejad, had been put under house arrest. Fars News Agency, a Web-based news site with close ties to the government, reported that Mr. Rafsanjani’s family has been barred from leaving the country.

During a televised debate with Mr. Mousavi prior to the election, Mr. Ahmadinejad accused Mr. Rafsanjani of money laundering.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, released a recorded statement on state television in which he backed down from previous criticism of protesters as “dust” and sore losers after a soccer match.

“I only addressed those who rioted, set fires and attacked people,” the statement said, according to the Associated Press. “Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone’s service. We like everyone.”

A clerical body called the Guardian Council is supposed to review some of the voting results, but Mr. Mousavi has demanded a new election.

The council’s spokesman, Abbasali Khadkhodaei, said Thursday that the body, largely appointed by the supreme leader, had received 646 complaints from the three candidates who ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad, AP reported.

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