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Clashes Erupt at Pro-Regime Iran Gathering

Saneh Galeh funeral ceremony
People take part in the funeral of Saneh Galeh in Tehran, Feb. 16, 2011. Getty

Clashes erupted Wednesday between thousands of pro-government demonstrators and a smaller group of reform-minded opposition supporters in central Terhan.

CBS News' Seyed Bathaei reports that the government organized a demonstration to mourn the death of an Iranian student killed on Monday in a shootout between the regime's supporters and foes.

The government claims the young man, Saneh Galeh, was fatally shot by an opposition group while demonstrating in support of the country's hard-line Islamic rulers.

Thousands of pro-government supporters heeded the authorities' call to mourn Galeh's death on Wednesday, but the gathering turned to fisticuffs and several arrests were made when hundreds of people, including some of the slain man's friends and professors, showed up to argue he had actually been killed while protesting against the government.

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Opposition protesters said at the rally that Galeh was a pro-reformist, and that he was almost certainly killed by bullets from the feared Basij militia -- an unofficial band of government goons who turn up to quash opposition rallies as soon as they spring up in Iran. There were even claims that Galeh had previously been arrested during the post-election rioting in 2009.

Bathaei says there were unconfirmed reports of large anti-government demonstrations in Tehran on Tuesday night, but that the primarily pro-government rally in the city's center was the only unrest on the streets of the capital on Wednesday.

Galeh was killed on Monday as Iran's opposition movement, which has essentially remained dormant for two years in the wake of a brutal government crackdown to quell the 2009 riots, tried to seize the momentum of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The protests in Tehran earlier this week were quickly brought to an end by the government's security forces, including the Basij.
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