Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: Reports of clashes near parliament building

June 24, 2009 |  2:05 pm

Riot police in Tehran are reported to have clashed today with protesters who were defying government warnings to halt demonstrations against the outcome of a disputed presidential election.

The reports, which came on what was otherwise a relatively quiet day in the Iranian capital, were drawing attention on Twitter and other social-networking sites.

There were conflicting accounts of the severity of the clashes.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that the police beat protesters with batons, fired tear gas and shot in the air to disperse a small crowd that converged on Baharestan Square, near the parliament building. Some demonstrators fought back, but others fled, they said.

Journalists are barred from reporting from Iran’s streets, and it was not possible to independently verify the accounts.

CNN interviewed a woman who said she was among those trying to reach the square when “all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs and [undecipherable] came out of [undecipherable] mosque, and they poured out into the streets, and they started beating everyone,” she said. “They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband who was watching the scene, he just fainted.”

Another witness, however, told Reuters that there were no casualties.

State-run Press TV said the police had dispersed an “illegal rally” of about 200 people. “A heavy presence of the police prevented violence in the area,” the station said in a post on its website.

-- Alexandra Zavis and Amber Smith in Los Angeles