Iran opposition urges big turnout at dissident funeral

In hopes of sparking anti-government protests, opposition websites call for broad participation in funeral of longtime anti-regime activist.

Iran Tehran Protest_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iran Tehran Protest_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
TEHRAN - Opposition groups urged Iranians on Tuesday to attend in large numbers the funeral procession of veteran dissident Ezatollah Sahabi, a gathering that could turn into an anti-government protest.
Sahabi, a former member of parliament who was forced into opposition in the 1980s, died of stroke in a Tehran hospital overnight at the age of 81.
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Opposition websites carried statements urging broad participation in Sahabi's funeral, which will be held in Lavasan on Wednesday. They said there was already a heavy security presence in the northeastern city in anticipation of the event.
Sahabi served as budget chief in the administration formed after Iran's 1979 revolution. He was also elected to the first post-revolutionary parliament but was sidelined by the powerful Islamic clergy in the 1980s.
A longtime activist, Sahabi was jailed both before and after the revolution and spent a total of 15 years behind bars on various charges including efforts to overthrow Islamic rule.
His daughter, Haleh Sahabi, is one of many Iranian activists arrested following a spate of protests in Iran in 2009. She is serving her two-year jail sentence.
Iran's 2009 presidential election sparked huge opposition protests, plunging the country into its deepest domestic crisis since the Islamic Revolution and exposing divisions within the establishment itself.
The reformist opposition says the election was rigged to bring back President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The authorities deny those claims and have portrayed the protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran's unique system of clerical government.