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Germany condemns Iran crackdown

Germany has denounced the violent crackdown on opposition protesters in Iran, calling it "unacceptable." Berlin has urged the regime to allow the right of free expression as new clashes erupted on Wednesday.

Iran rally

Iranian protests have been marked by violent clashes and arrests

The German government has condemned the Iranian regime for its crackdown on opposition protesters, calling it "especially worrying and disturbing."

"We call upon the Iranian government not to deny the Iranian people the very rights and freedoms to which they just congratulated the Egyptian people for exercising," said a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This comes after anti-government protesters and regime supporters clashed on Wednesday at the funeral of a man killed in Monday's protests.

The violence erupted after regime backers, including parliamentarians and members of the Revolutionary Guard, held a demonstration marking the death of Sane'e Zhale, who they say was a member of the Islamist Basji militia. However, opposition supporters maintain he came from their ranks. State TV said the pro-government demonstrators chanted "Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Mousavi and Karroubi," a reference to Iran's main opposition leaders.

The regime has called a rally in Tehran for Friday to express "hatred" against the opposition.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert added that Germany was offering its full support for the protesters.

"The chancellor assures the Iranian women and men who courageously have taken to the streets that their calls for freedom and human rights will be heard in Germany and Europe," Seibert said.

US and EU show support

US President Barack Obama also offered encouragement to protesters in Iran, saying he hoped they would have the "courage" to continue expressing their "yearning for greater freedoms."

He had harsh words for the Iranian regime, saying that unlike in Egypt, Iran's response to protests has been "to shoot people, beat people and arrest people." He called on US allies in the Middle East to accept that fundamental changes were taking place.

"You can't be behind the curve," Obama said, as the people cry out for change.

The office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was taking note of events in Iran, in particular "the apparent restrictions placed on the freedom of movement of certain members of the opposition."

She called on the Iranian authorities "to fully respect and protect the rights of their citizens, including freedom of expression and the right to assemble peacefully."

Green Revolution revisited

Two people were reportedly shot dead in Monday's clashes between protesters and riot police at Tehran's Azadi [Freedom] Square.

Anti-government protesters had gathered there in support of the recent Arab uprisings and chanted "Death to Dictators." The slogan was used by demonstrators against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 protests following his controversial reelection as president.

Iranian protesters

Mousavi spearheaded Iran's Green Revolution

Despite a heavy police deployment and a government ban, thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets. Authorities placed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi under house arrest to prevent him from taking part in the Tehran rally and also cut telephone lines and blocked Internet access.

Analysts say the Iranian leadership is trying to stop opposition groups from using the uprising in Egypt to revive the kind of protests that culminated in the so-called Green Revolution in 2009.

Dozens of demonstrators were killed in the 2009 rallies while a number of leading activists, pro-reform politicians and journalists were put in prison.

Two dead in Yemen protests

Protests have also flared up again in Yemen, where thousands of policemen have been deployed to the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden to quell days of unrest between anti-regime protesters and supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Medical sources said at least one protester was shot dead by police in Aden, another was believed to have died of his wounds in hospital while 15 others were injured. Although Saleh has made a number of concessions, including a pledge to step down when his term expires in 2013, protesters are demanding his immediate ouster.

Author: Rob Mudge (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Sabina Casagrande

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