CAIRO, Egypt - Iranian authorities said yesterday that they were holding the bodies of five slain antigovernment demonstrators, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, in what appeared to be an effort to prevent activists from using their funerals as a platform for more demonstrations.
Pro-reform Web sites and activists said the government also detained at least eight prominent opposition figures - including a former foreign minister - in an intensified crackdown that could fuel more violence of the kind that engulfed the center of Tehran on Sunday.
Hard-liners, including clerical groups and the elite Revolutionary Guard, issued statements urging Iran's judiciary to take action against the opposition for violating Islamic principles and insulting the head of Iran's religious leadership, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In the bloodiest protests in months, emboldened demonstrators chanted slogans Sunday against Khamenei, casting aside a taboo on personal criticism of him. In outbursts of fury rarely seen in past street confrontations, they burned squad cars and motorcycles belonging to security forces who had opened fire on the crowds, according to witness accounts, opposition Web sites, and amateur videos posted on the Web.
"I believe we are moving toward a more militarized and repressive confrontation," said Ahmad Bakhshayesh, a political science professor at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabaei University. "Things are going to get worse."
IRNA, Iran's state-run news agency, said the bodies of five protesters, including Ali Mousavi, were being held pending autopsies. The nephew's family alleged he was shot by security forces or government-backed militiamen, and his funeral would most likely galvanize another outpouring of opposition anger.
The nephew's brother, Reza Mousavi, earlier said that the body had been taken overnight from a Tehran hospital.
"However much we search, we can't find the body," Reza Mousavi told the reformist Web site Parlemannews.ir. Islamic tradition calls for burial within 24 hours of death.
The opposition has alleged that Mousavi's nephew had received death threats in recent days and had been shot by assassins who drove to his house. Reformists believe the killing was an attempt to pressure Mousavi to back down.
Iranian state TV reported that eight people died in the Tehran violence, a higher toll than the five reported by some opposition Web sites. State TV also cited the Health Ministry as saying that 60 people were injured and that many had been released from hospitals after treatment.
Independent confirmation of the casualties was virtually impossible because of state restrictions on media coverage of the upheaval that has gripped Iran since the disputed June presidential election.
Iranian authorities have said 300 people were arrested in the protests but did not specify where they were detained. The opposition Jaras Web site said several hundred were arrested in Tehran and a similar number in the central city of Isfahan.
Tehran residents say limits on Internet access have been tightened since Sunday, and Iranians could not see opposition Web sites. Cell-phone and text-messaging services were sporadic. Communication problems are common around the time of demonstrations, most likely in a government bid to prevent negative publicity and disrupt coordination among protesters.
Parlemannews.ir said three Mousavi aides were detained yesterday. Security forces also arrested two people in a raid on a foundation run by the reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, a foundation official said on condition of anonymity because of fears of police reprisal. The Baran Foundation works to promote dialogue between cultures.
Former Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi and human-rights activist Emad Baghi were arrested, according to the Rah-e-Sabz Web site. Yazdi is now leader of the banned but tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran.
President Obama said yesterday that "the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away."
The families of three U.S. hikers arrested in July after crossing into Iran from Iraq say they have hired a prominent
lawyer in Iran to work for their release.
Lawyer Masoud Shafii previously represented two internationally renowned Iranian AIDS physicians convicted in January of taking part in an alleged U.S.-backed plot to overthrow Iran's regime.
The families of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal maintain that they are innocent hikers who went astray. Fattal was raised in Elkins Park.
Iranian prosecutors said yesterday that the three remained under investigation. The families said they hoped Iran would free them on humanitarian grounds but wanted to prepare for possible charges.
- Associated Press