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Violence Breaks Out In Streets of Tehran

A request by Mousavi and other opposition leaders for permission to hold a huge commemoration gathering Thursday was rejected by the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by an ally of Ahmadinejad. Still, Mousavi had called upon his supporters to join him at the cemetery.

That call triggered a strong response by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been in control of Tehran since the election. Across the city, cars honked in support of the protesters, and security forces promptly smashed the vehicles' windows. Members of a family were seen being pulled out of their sedan by members of the Basij, after which the car was wrecked by blows from batons.

The protesters responded with violence of their own.

"I saw a man throw a brick right in the face of a riot police officer. He fell on the ground," one witness said.

Protesters lighted candles at Argentine Square, as drivers parked their cars at the normally bustling traffic circle. At other locations, demonstrators shouted slogans such as "Our Neda hasn't died. It's the government that has died," witnesses reported. They also chanted "Death to you" at the security forces, witnesses said.

Earlier, the deputy commander of police, Ahmad-Reza Radan, had said that "the police will harshly confront lawbreakers," according to the Fars News Agency. "The lawbreakers should have no doubt that the police will take any measure to secure the safety of the citizens."

People standing on a public stairway on Vali-e Asr Street taunted a member of the Basij to come up if he dared. The man, in his 30s and wearing a checkered black-and-white shirt, took out a revolver and started shooting but failed to hit anybody. "I saw the round hitting the walls behind the people. It was a miracle no one got hurt," one witness said.

Even as security forces cracked down, the government was trying to appease opponents. Police announced Thursday that they had paid damages to hundreds of people who had been mistreated during previous demonstrations, doling out $50,000 in total.

Earlier in the week, the government closed a major prison where arrested protesters had been held, citing substandard conditions. The closure came after reports emerged in recent days that three detainees had died, and it was interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But opposition leaders said more was needed to heal the deep rifts in Iranian society.

"It's not enough to say that a substandard detention center has been closed. What does 'substandard' mean? Does it mean the fans weren't working or the toilets weren't clean? No! Murders have been committed, lives have been lost, blood has been spilt," former president Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday at a meeting with parliament members, according to Nowruznews, a Web site close to the opposition. "Our youth, men and women have been treated in such a way that had it been committed in prisons controlled by foreigners, everyone here would be shouting and denouncing it."

Special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie contributed to this report.

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