Police break up Tehran demonstration over mayor’s arrest

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Riot police swinging clubs dispersed 4,000 people demonstrating Tuesday in support of Tehran’s mayor, whose jailing has turned into a showdown between hard-liners and moderates in Iran’s Islamic government.
About 300 riot police broke up the rally outside Tehran University near the center of the capital. Witnesses said about 30 protesters were arrested, but police refused to comment.
Fistfights also erupted between supporters and opponents of the mayor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi. There were no serious injuries, and police quickly quelled the clashes.
Karbaschi was arrested April 4 on the orders of the hard-line chief judge, Mohammad Yazdi. Prosecutors have accused him of misappropriating public funds, but in a ruling establishment rife with corruption, the reformist mayor has a relatively clean image.
It was not clear why the rally went ahead Tuesday. Student leaders had called it off late Monday following an appeal from moderate President Mohammad Khatami, who has backed the mayor.
Karbaschi was arrested against the wishes of Khatami and Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri, a staunch Khatami ally.
Hard-liners in the government have sought to topple some of Khatami’s key supporters since he won a landslide victory in May presidential elections over a hard-line opponent. Karbaschi, who masterminded Khatami’s presidential campaign, had been their No. 1 target.
Judicial officials said Tuesday that Karbaschi’s trial would begin in about two weeks. Judges reportedly have rejected Karbaschi’s bail pleas.
Karbaschi’s detention has become the focal point of people’s frustration with the rigid social restrictions that Iran’s clerical rulers have imposed since taking power in the 1979 Islamic revolution. Khatami, who is also a clergyman, has sought to undo many of the curbs, and also has taken steps to improve Iran’s relations with the world.