Iranian opposition Web sites say hundreds of thousands of people turned
out for the funeral of dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali
Montazeri, largely turning the funeral procession into an
Reports say many mourners chanted anti-government slogans and carried
green symbols of Iran's opposition movement during Monday's procession
in the northern Shi'ite holy city of Qom. They say there were sporadic
clashes between riot police and some stone-throwing protesters, and
that Iran's pro-government Basij militia tore down mourners' banners.
There was no independent confirmation of the turnout or protests. Foreign media were barred from covering the funeral.
Ayatollah Montazeri was buried at a shrine in Qom, the city where he died before dawn Sunday at the age of 87.
Iranian reformists regarded the cleric as the spiritual patron of their
movement. Earlier this year, he denounced the government's crackdown on
protests against the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud
Opposition Web sites say Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi
and Mehdi Karroubi attended the funeral proceedings. Mousavi and
Karroubi declared Monday a day of mourning for the cleric.
Iranian reformists have used several recent national commemorations as rallying points for anti-government protests.
Iranian opposition groups say authorities detained several reformists as they tried to reach the funeral.
Ayatollah Montazeri was one of the leaders of Iran's 1979 Islamic
Revolution and was designated to succeed its supreme leader, Ayatollah
But, Montazeri later criticized the concentration of power in Ayatollah
Khomeini's hands and what he saw as human rights abuses by the clerical
The criticism led to Montazeri being dropped as Ayatollah Khomeini's
successor. Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
assumed the post after Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989. Iranian
authorities later placed Montazeri under house arrest for several years
for his outspoken views.
Supreme Leader Khamenei expressed condolences on Montazeri's death, but
asked God to forgive the cleric for failing a crucial test -- an
apparent reference to Montazeri's falling out with Ayatollah Khomeini.