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Iran Releases 750 Protesters

July 19, 1999

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Iranian authorities have released 750 people who were arrested during the pro-democracy unrest last week, the Tehran Times daily reported today.

It quoted a government official as saying 450 other people remain in detention, and that their cases are ``under investigation.″ The report did not name the official.

Also today, the Farsi-language Arya newspaper reported that five student leaders were released. It was not clear whether they were among the 750 reported freed.

The protests have highlighted the struggle between reformists in the government, led by President Mohammad Khatami, and the conservatives who control the police, judiciary and broadcast media.

Meanwhile, a member of the Islamic Association of Tehran University Students told the Neshat daily that association members have been threatened by hard-line militants.

``We have been identified (as student leaders) and seriously threatened, even by death,″ Reza Hojjati was quoted as saying.

The newspapers were monitored in Dubai.

The protests began when police stormed a Tehran University dormitory on July 9, hours after students rallied to protest the banning of a liberal newspaper.

The next day, thousands of students protested in the streets of Tehran, and within days the demonstrations swelled and spread to other cities. Riot police began cracking down on July 12. Three people were killed _ a student, a cleric and a soldier.

Authorities have blamed the unrest, the worst since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, on the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq Organization, the largest Iranian opposition group. They said Mujahedeen agents infiltrated protests and urged students to clash with police.

Officials also have claimed that the United States was behind the violence. In a statement last week, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States of fomenting the unrest, saying ``the mean and wretched enemies of Islam and the revolution″ think that Iranians would allow the ``criminal United States″ to dominate Iran.

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