Mousavi Reportedly Blocked from Neda Memorial

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Witnesses tell news agencies that Iranian police have arrested at least four people and prevented Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi from attending a ceremony Thursday afternoon at a Tehran cemetery marking the 40 day anniversary of 27-year-old Neda Agha Soltan's death.

Unidentified witnesses told the Associated Press that hundreds of police surrounded Mousavi as he tried to approach the grave of Soltan, whose widely publicized shooting amid postelection violence fueled the opposition movement. The AP reports that Mousavi was forced to leave the cemetery but hundreds others gathered to mourn Soltan and others killed in the violence were allowed to stay.

Web sites affiliated with the opposition movement reported earlier Thursday that Mousavi and fellow presidential opposition candidate Mehdi Karoubi would attend the gathering at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, which coincides with other planned memorials and "silent wave" demonstrations across Iran.

Neda's video-taped death has been by far the most symbolic of the postelection violence, but the day of mourning was also meant to honor the other victims of the unrest in the Islamic Republic following the contentious June 12 election which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reelected in an apparent landslide.

The opposition insists the election results were based on wide-spread fraud and vote rigging — with the collusion of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mousavi and his backers applied last weekend for a permit to hold the cemetery memorial on Thursday, but there was no indication the government had consented, setting the stage for yet another possible confrontation between Iranian security forces and opposition supporters.

An estimated 500 people were arrested in a government crackdown and at least 20 killed in violent clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators in the weeks after the election results were announced and ratified by Khamenei.

Since then, the government has conceded some mistreatment of prisoners and shut down one jail in Tehran's suburbs. The move came after the son of a prominent conservative politician died from injuries apparently sustained at the now-shuttered prison.

Neda's family announced that they would not be attending the cemetery memorial Thursday. Her relatives, who say she was killed by Basij militia members as she observed a anti-government demonstration, have said Neda is "the daughter of our nation".