TEHRAN — Several thousand protesters, some chanting "Where is my vote?" clashed with riot police in Tehran on June 28 as Iran detained local employees of the British embassy, escalating the regime's standoff with the West and earning it a stinging rebuke from the European Union.
Witnesses said riot police used tear gas and clubs to break up a crowd of approximately 3,000 protesters who had gathered near north Tehran's Ghoba Mosque in the country's first major post-election unrest in four days.
Some described scenes of brutality, telling AP that protesters suffered broken bones and alleging that police beat an elderly woman, prompting a row with young demonstrators who then fought back.
North Tehran is a base of support for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has alleged massive fraud in Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election and insists he, not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the rightful winner.
Witnesses said the protesters also chanted, "Ya Hussein, Mir Hossein", linking Mousavi's first name with a highly revered Shiite saint Imam Hussein, a symbol of personal sacrifice for a cause.
Witnesses who spoke with the AP said they did not spot Mousavi at the rally. But one of his close assistants addressed the crowd through a loudspeaker and other opposition figures also appeared, including reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi.
Iranian authorities say 17 protesters and eight members of the volunteer Basij militia have been killed in two weeks of unrest, and that hundreds of people have been arrested.
Iran's diplomatic battles also intensified June 28 after authorities detained several local employees of the British embassy in Tehran, a move that Britain's foreign secretary called "harassment and intimidation". The EU condemned the arrests.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Corfu, Greece, issued a statement condemning the arrests and calling for the immediate release of all still detained. The 27-nation bloc also denounced Iran's continuing restrictions on journalists.
"They made clear to Iranian authorities that harassment or intimidation of foreign or Iranian staff working in embassies will be met with a strong and collective EU response", the statement said.