Britain calls on Iran to release arrested protesters

Filed on June 15, 2011

LONDON — Britain urged Iran Monday to release protesters arrested in Tehran on the second anniversary of the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the crackdown was “deeply worrying”.

“Yesterday, large gatherings of Iranians marked the second anniversary of the disputed 2009 elections with silent and peaceful protest, and were again met with repression by the Iranian authorities,” said Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister with special responsibility for the Middle East.

“There are deeply worrying, credible reports of arrests and violence against protesters.”

In a statement, he added: “I call on the Iranian authorities to release immediately all those detained yesterday and in the past two years for simply exercising what should be legitimate freedoms.”

Burt also called for an “urgent and transparent investigation” into the deaths of opposition journalist Reza Hoda Saber and activist Haleh Sahabi.

Hoda Saber died of a heart attack over the weekend after going on hunger strike on June 2, an Iranian opposition website reported on Sunday.

He stopped eating in protest at the death of Sahabi, who died of cardiac arrest on June 1 when she was confronted by security forces during the funeral of her father, a veteran opposition figure.

“I am struck by the courage of those ordinary Iranians who continue to stand firm against attempts to beat them into silence, exemplified by journalists such as Hoda Saber, whose death yesterday following a hunger strike in prison shocked Iran,” Burt said.

“As the foreign secretary (William Hague) said yesterday, the Iranian regime’s feigned support for those demanding their rights elsewhere in the region is belied by its brutal crackdown on freedoms at home.”

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