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AI decries treatment of Iranian protesters

TEHRAN, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Amnesty International Monday condemned excessive force by Iranian security forces during rallies in which protesters reportedly were beaten and detained.

In a number of instances, security forces, including the pro-government Basij militia, used batons and tear gas to disperse opposition supporters after officials said demonstrations would be considered illegal, the human rights group said in a release.

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"Since the disputed election a pattern has emerged of the authorities preventing peaceful demonstrations, and then hastily resorting to violence against people who nevertheless choose to exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

Thousands of opposition supporters and students had gathered at universities in Tehran and other Iranian cities to mark National Students Day commemorating the killing of three students by security forces in 1953.

Sahraoui said people arrested for "simply attending today's demonstrations" should be released immediately and unconditionally. Others arrested should be released unless they are charged with a recognizable criminal offense then tried promptly and fairly.

"The Iranian authorities continue to treat peaceful dissenters as criminals in violation of Iran's Constitution," Sahraoui said.

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