'Iranian dissident dies after scuffle with security forces'

Opposition websites say regime forces began clashes with dissidents at the funeral of veteran activist; US calls on Iran to investigate.

June 1, 2011 21:39
2 minute read.
Iranian protesters in Tehran

Iran Tehran Protest_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

TEHRAN - The daughter of a prominent veteran Iranian dissident died on Wednesday after security forces scuffled with mourners at her father's funeral, opposition websites said.

Haleh Sahabi, 54, herself an opposition activist and women's rights campaigner, had been allowed out of prison to attend the funeral of her father Ezatollah Sahabi. She fell in the scuffle and died of a cardiac arrest, the Kaleme website said.

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Iran opposition urges big turnout at dissident funeral

The semi-official Mehr news agency reported sporadic clashes at the funeral but said Sahabi had died of a pre-existing heart condition and not because of rough handling.

"Security forces tried to interfere in the carrying of the body, she objected and security forces confronted her and other people present," Kaleme said, adding that Sahabi was pushed to the ground. Another opposition site, Sahamnews, said a member of the security forces punched her in the stomach.

Kaleme said she was holding a picture of her father to her chest and fell when security forces tried to take it from her. "She fell and did not get up," it said.

Reuters was unable to verify the events independently.

Haleh Sahabi's death angered supporters of Iran's opposition movement whose massive street protests after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 were crushed by the government and whose leaders have been put under house arrest.

The Iran Green Voice website called on people to chant "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) from their rooftops at night, a common form of protest by opposition supporters.

"Both Haleh and her father suffered in life for their political activism including imprisonment," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing.

"We call on the Iranian government to investigate the circumstances of her death. If reports are accurate that government security forces contributed to her death, this would demonstrate a deplorable disregard for human dignity and respect on the part of the Iranian authorities."

The semi-official Fars news agency accused the opposition movement of fabricating stories of trouble at the funeral.

"Despite the claims and lies of the media supporting American and Israeli seditionists saying Haleh Sahabi was killed in a clash with security forces, Fars reporters present at the funeral service said there was no clash," it said.

Another news agency, ISNA, quoted security official Alireza Janeh as saying there had been no clashes and that Sahabi's heart failure was due to a pre-existing condition exacerbated by stress and hot weather.

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