Amnesty: Iran steps up repression before polls

LONDON - Iran has "dramatically escalated" a crackdown on dissent in the run-up to this week's parliamentary elections, arresting lawyers, students and journalists and targeting electronic media, human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
"In Iran today you put yourself at risk if you do anything that might fall outside the increasingly narrow confines of what the authorities deem socially or politically acceptable," said Ann Harrison, an Amnesty Middle East expert.
"Anything from setting up a social group on the internet, forming or joining an NGO (non-governmental organization), or expressing your opposition to the status quo can land you in prison," she said in a statement.
Friday's election is the first nationwide vote since the disputed 2009 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that sparked eight months of unrest and a crushing state response.
The vote is likely to highlight the popularity of the clerical establishment as it stands firm against Western pressure to curb its nuclear work.
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