Revolutionary Guards join blockade of Iran opposition leader's home

Militiamen and Guards surround the home of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi to stop him joining a Palestinian solidarity rally.

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Islamist militiamen and members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards surrounded the home of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi today to prevent him from joining an annual government-sponsored Palestinian solidarity rally, his website said. At last year's Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Tehran, supporters of Mr Karroubi and his fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi staged demonstrations against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government.

"As of 8am today, Basijis (militiamen) and Sepahi (Guards) gathered in front of Karroubi's home and started reciting mourning prayers which are usually recited on the day of Ashura," the website said. "The aim of these people is to prevent him from participating in the Quds Day rally." The fresh siege of Mr Karroubi's home came after several Basijis, some carrying guns, attacked the residential building late yesterday for a second night in a row and wounded his chief bodyguard.

"Armed Basijis attacked Mr Karroubi's house and got inside the building after smashing down the door. The guards were obliged to fire in the air," the opposition leader's website reported earlier. "The attackers opened fire and threw Molotov cocktails at the building," it said, adding: "Mr Karroubi's chief boduguard was badly beaten up and had to be taken to hospital." The website said that the assault on Mr Karroubi's house, which began shortly before midnight yesterday, only ended when special forces arrived on the scene.

The website said on Wednesday that the militiamen had been gathering in front of Mr Karroubi's home since Sunday to prevent him from taking part in today's Palestinian solidarity rally. Ever since the 1979 revolution, Iran has organised pro-Palestinian marches each year on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But last year the opposition used such government-sponsored rallies to organise protests against Mr Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election that June.

Both Mr Karroubi and Mr Mousavi have remained steadfast in rejecting the official results of the election which they say were massively rigged. Their opposition to Mr Ahmadinejad has deeply divided Iran's ruling clergy. Opposition websites say the two men have been attacked by hardliners at a number of public rallies over the past 15 months and that Mr Karroubi has been harassed on other occasions.