: Student leaders call off demonstrations, fearing violence — and then they are kidnapped by the mullahs’ militia thugs. Reuters reports:
Armed Iranian Islamic vigilantes have seized three student leaders as they left a news conference where they announced they had cancelled protests to mark the anniversary of 1999 university unrest, witnesses say.
Authorities have banned off-campus rallies, closed campus dormitories, postponed summer exams and vowed to deal strictly with any unrest after arresting 4,000 people during 10 nights of sometimes violent protests across the country in June.
“After the news conference when some of our friends wanted to leave, armed plainclothes men in three cars attacked the students and kidnapped three members of the Office to Consolidate Unity,” Matin Meshkini, a student leader, told Reuters.
Other witnesses said some 15 people armed with handguns and with the trademark beards, walkie-talkies and untucked shirts of Islamic vigilantes pushed aside uniformed police who tried to intervene as they bundled the three into waiting cars.
“We cannot call it arrest, it was a kidnapping,” Meshkini said.
Remaining student leaders locked themselves in the Office to Consolidate Unity, Iran’s main student organisation, fearing for their safety. They left hours later after Tehran’s police chief guaranteed they would not be harmed or arrested.
“We believe remaining here would give them a pretext for a worse confrontation with student activists,” Meshkini said.
Students said they cancelled protests in front of the Tehran United Nations headquarters and a campus sit-in, fearing a backlash from security forces and after an appeal for calm from five reformist parliamentarians close to the student movement.
The plainclothes militiamen are fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful figure, and are beyond the control of the elected government of moderate President Mohammad Khatami and the official police hierarchy.
One student leader said eight members of the Office to Consolidate Unity had been seized by unidentified assailants before Wednesday and their whereabouts were still unknown.
: There is surprisingly — shockingly — little coverage of the events.
: The BBC’s version:
Despite their compliance, three more student leaders were detained immediately after giving a news conference on Wednesday morning to explain why they had called off their visit to the UN headquarters.
Reza Ameri-Nassab, Arash Hashemi and Ali Moqtaderi were intercepted by plain-clothes gunmen as they left the building, and taken away with pistols at their heads. One of them is believed to have had his nose broken as he was being detained.
“If I am arrested today, I don’t guarantee that I won’t come out with confessions against myself after they’ve held me for a while, because of the pressures they put people under,” Ameri-Nassab told journalists only minutes before he was seized.
Student arrests have sparked demonstrations
The legality of such snatches, carried out on the orders of the Tehran public prosecutor Judge Saeed Mortazavi, has been challenged by student leaders and reformist officials and has become one of the main student grievances.
: Michael J. Totten has an open letter to the people of Iran.
: Cox & Forkum has a good roundup. I’m on dial-up and keep getting cut off. So start there.
: This is what we’ve heard from Washington:
As Iran prepares to mark Wednesday’s fourth anniversary of bloody student riots, US lawmakers said Washington should do more to support students agitating for the regime’s reform or ouster.
“America must make it clear that we see the difference between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, and we support the people,” said Senator Sam Brownback, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has held several hearings on the political and social situation in Iran.