ISFAHAN, Iran, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Police and plainclothes security forces clashed with mourners Wednesday at a mosque in Isfahan, Iran, during a ceremony honoring a late dissident ayatollah.
Clerics in Isfahan said they would hold a ceremony to honor the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Security officials, however, tried to block the entrance to the mosque, responding with batons and tear gas as mourners flocked to the ceremony.
Montazeri passed away during the weekend. Once a student of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, Montazeri became the spiritual leader of the so-called Green Movement that emerged in the wake of disputed June presidential elections.
Mourners during his funeral Monday chanted anti-government slogans, and there were reports of minor skirmishes with security forces.
Witnesses told Radio Zamaneh, an independent Persian broadcaster in the Netherlands, that security forces were dispatched throughout Isfahan and set up roadblocks to control access to the mosque.
The Zamaneh report said police used tear gas, batons, chains and clubs to disperse the crowds. Massob Abid, a clerical supporter of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested during Montazeri commemorations in the holy city of Qom.
Iran erupted in violent protests in the wake of the June election victory for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Faced with a massive government crackdown, opposition supporters have used national holidays to voice their dissent.
The death of Montazeri comes as Shiites prepare for the feast of Ashura on Sunday, marking the anniversary of the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Mohammed.