Iranian riot police 'deployed' after cleric's death

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Iranian riot police 'deployed' after cleric's death

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A reformist website in Iran says riot police are being deployed in the holy city of Qom after the death of Iran’s top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

Thousands of his supporters are flocking to the city – where Montazeri lived and died – to attend his funeral.

Pro-opposition Iranians are also reported to be gathering in the squares of Tehran to mourn the death of man who was a fierce critic of the current regime.

Montazeri was among those who denounced June’s disputed presidential election as fraudulent.

His death from a heart attack at the age of 87 coincides with rising tension in the Islamic Republic with the elite pro-government Revolutionary Guard threatening to come down hard on opposition activists.

Iranian media sources say thousands of people from all over Iran are converging on Qom which, say analysts, could become a rallying point for the reformist opposition.

Montazeri was in line to succeed revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini in the ’80s but fell from favour after criticizing the mass execution of prisoners.

He has maintained a dissident stance ever since. In August he said on his website that the authorities’ handling of street unrest following the election “could lead to the fall of the regime” and he denounced the clerical leadership as a “dictatorship”.