Thousands of people clashed with police on Saturday after the disputed election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked the biggest protests in Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranians to respect Ahmadinejad’s victory in a presidential election that his closest challenger described as a “dangerous charade.”
Ahmadinejad’s triumph in Friday’s vote upset expectations that reformist candidate Mirhossein Mousavi might win the race.
Thousands of Mousavi supporters took part in the protests, some chanting, “What happened to our vote?.” Others chanted anti-Ahmadinejad slogans, bringing traffic to a standstill. “We are Iranians too,” and “Mousavi is our president,” they shouted.
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli, an Ahmadinejad ally, declared the president had been re-elected to a second four-year term with 62.6 percent of the vote, against 33.7 percent for Mousavi, in a record 85 percent turnout.
Mousavi protested against what he called violations and vote-rigging during the election — allegations rejected by Interior Ministry officials.
“I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade. The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardize the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny,” Mousavi said in a statement made available to Reuters.
In a rare challenge to the authorities, thousands of his supporters defied police warnings that they would confront anyone holding unauthorized protests. Police beat protesters with batons as they spread out across the capital.
In one incident, police on motorcycles beat Mousavi backers who were staging a sit-in protest at the capital’s Vanak square.
Mousavi said members of his election headquarters had been beaten “with batons, wooden sticks and electrical rods.”