There were fears last night that the wife of Iran's opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi had been arrested after a defiant statement that protesters should not buckle, despite being in a situation she likened to martial law.
Zahra Rahnavarad, who came to prominence by campaigning alongside her husband (a double act unprecedented in Iranian politics), criticised the presence of armed forces in the street and insisted the opposition had a constitutional right to hold demonst- rations. The regime should not suppress it “as if martial law had been imposed”, she said.
In the message posted on her husband's website, she also demanded the immediate release of people detained since the election. But before the day was out, there were reports — which could not be confirmed because of the media clampdown — that she herself had been detained.
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his hardline stance that the result of the disputed election would stand. “I insisted and will insist on implement- ing the law on the election issue,” he said. “Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost.”
The Ayatollah's demand that public protest end means the opposition leader must either call his supporters off the streets or be seen as mounting a direct challenge to the spiritual leader.
Last night there were reports of prolonged clashes outside the parliament building. Witnesses described the Basiji militia charging with batons and the police using teargas to disperse the crowd.
One of the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's main supporters in parliament, Ali Shahrokhi, the chairman of the judiciary committee, has called for Mr Mousavi's arrest, saying “his viewpoint and illegal statements, which have encouraged and provoked public opinion are considered to be a crime. This... is illegal and should be dealt with firmly.”
Mr Mousavi's legal adviser, Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, is already under arrest, along with hundreds of others held since protests swept the country after Mr Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the June 12 election.
A significant proportion are women. As well as opposition figures, journalists and members of the public, people who were close to regime have also been taken.
Some of those detained have been dragged off the streets in broad daylight. Others have been seized in night raids after they were identified as targets using photos taken during the daytime marches. A few have been released, but most remain missing.
Amnesty International warned yesterday that those arrested risked being tortured and urged the authorities to allow detainees access to their families, lawyers and medical treatment.