Hoda Saber, a reform-minded Iranian political prisoner, has died after suffering a heart attack in jail 10 days after going on hunger strike.
Opposition websites reported on Sunday that Mr Saber, 52, died as a result of the hunger strike which he was pursuing in protest at the death of another prisoner and the alleged negligence of security forces. Officials reportedly informed his family on Sunday, one day after the death.
Mr Saber’s death came as the opposition Green Movement was considering taking part in an anti-government rally to mark the second anniversary of 2009’s disputed presidential election which saw Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad returned to power as president.
The Co-ordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, a committee based outside Iran, has called for a silent rally to urge the release of opposition leaders and political prisoners, the holding of free elections and to protest against high inflation and unemployment.
Security forces were out in force on Sunday in central Tehran to head off any mass gatherings, witnesses said.
Mr Saber, a member of the “religious-nationalist” political group, had been in prison since July last year.
Farideh Saber, his wife, said earlier this year that her husband was suffering from “heart disease he developed during the many times he has been imprisoned”. Mr Saber had previously spent time in prison in 2000 and in 2003.
The protests alluded to in the story are ongoing:
Iranian police swinging clubs chased protesters and made arrests Sunday to disperse hundreds of people who gathered in the capital to mark the second anniversary of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election, the opposition said.
Claims of fraud in the June 2009 election sent waves of protesters into streets around the nation for months, triggering a deadly crackdown and mass trials of activists and pro-reform politicians. The movement grew into the most serious challenge to Iran’s ruling system since its birth in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but it was largely swept from the streets after half a year and has failed to regain momentum.
The opposition website Kaleme.com said police wielding clubs tried to disperse protesters in one location of the capital, but there were few details.
It said police detained many of the protesters and authorities ordered shops and public places like movie theaters to close early to prevent more crowds from gathering. The reports could not be verified independently since Iran’s government has banned foreign media from covering opposition activities.
Authorities deployed hundreds of police to the main streets of Tehran, witnesses said.
Infighting within Iran’s elite is set to overshadow Sunday’s second anniversary of the disputed 2009 presidential poll, as a fundamentalist power struggle reveals cracks in Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s government and spurs hopes that his grip is loosening.
Iran brutally suppressed protesters after the 2009 election, which President Ahmadi-Nejad was widely accused of stealing.
A silent rally will take place on Sunday afternoon on Tehran’s Vali Asr street, according to the Co-ordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, a committee based outside Iran that steers street rallies in the absence of jailed opposition leaders. But opposition supporters appear reluctant to have a high turnout.
In April, the president initially disobeyed an order from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not to sack the intelligence minister, breaking a taboo against defying Ayatollah Khamenei. The dispute sparked a struggle between the two leading figures and put the president’s survival at risk.
All of this would appear to indicate that far from being finished, the reform movement continues to be a thorn in the side of the regime. And as the third story indicates, to the extent that reformists don’t flood the streets in the coming days, it may simply be because they don’t want to distract from the divisions within the regime. The reform movement appears to be willing to refrain from interfering, so long as the regime appears to be willing to destroy itself.