Thousands take to streets to protest Iran poll
Posted 1 hour 4 minutes ago
Thousands of angry supporters of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have massed in Tehran to protest at the election result, with some pelting stones at baton-wielding police.
"Down with the dictator!" shouted the crowd as they streamed into one of the capital's main squares after latest results showed incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had secured a landslide win.
Hundreds of other people also gathered near the interior ministry in central Tehran, shouting: "Death to the dictator!"
The crowd rose in numbers after Mr Mousavi said in a statement that he would not bow to the "dangerous scenario" created in Iran by the results of the closely fought election.
Mr Mousavi said he "protested vigorously against the numerous and blatant irregularities" in Friday's vote after officials said Mr Ahmadinejad had secured about 63 per cent of the vote with counting in most districts over.
Latest results showed Mr Mousavi with 11.7 million votes against 21.8 million for Mr Ahmadinejad.
The former premier said it was his "national and religious duty to reveal the secrets of this dangerous process and to explain its destructive consequences for the future of the country".
He said many people did not get the chance to vote, because polling stations shut and ballot papers ran out.
They also claim their scrutineers were banned from mobile polling booths.
Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who came a distant third with less than 2 per cent, also declared that the result was "illegitimate and unacceptable".
A furious mob threw stones at police who hit back with sticks to try to disperse demonstrators gathered around central Tehran's Vanak Square.
Protesters, including women, were also hit with sticks in Tehran's Valiasr Street as riot police on motorbikes moved in to break up a gathering outside Mr Mousavi's office.
"They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years," shouted an irate mob outside Mr Mousavi's office.
The results surprise supporters of Mr Mousavi, whose bid for the presidency had gathered momentum in the final weeks before Friday's election.
But the figures, if they are to be believed, show Mr Ahmadinejad winning strongly even in the heartland of Mr Mousavi.
"I fear they played with people's vote," one woman said after the most hotly contested vote in the history of the Islamic republic.
"We are going to stay here. We are going to die here," demonstrators shouted as one woman was struck on her back by policeman's baton, while others were kicked.
"The time of dancing and shouting is over. They are going to break your leg if you stand here," a senior policeman was heard telling one man.
Another man lying on a sidewalk, wearing a green shirt in the signature colour of Mr Mousavi's campaign, said a policeman had beat him even as he stood quietly at the side of the road.
"I was just standing here and they hit me on the back. I was just watching."
Iran's deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan said any kind of gathering by supporters of any candidate was illegal.
"If they want to gather, they have to take prior permission and we can give them protection," he said.
The international community has been keenly watching the election for any signs of a shift in policy after four years of hardline rhetoric from Mr Ahmadinejad, 52, and a standoff over Iran's nuclear drive.