Tens of thousands of Iranians — many chanting protest slogans — joined the funeral procession Monday for the country's most senior dissident cleric, who had crticized the government crackdowns on the opposition. Iranian authorities have banned foreign media from covering the processions in the holy city of Qom for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday at age 87.
But, according to the AP, eyewitnesses said many mourners shouted protest cries including "Death to the Dictator" in displays of anger against Iran's ruler. Some opposition Web sites noted scuffles and violence.
On Monday, access to the Internet in Iran was slow, and cellular telephone service was unreliable.
Security was extremely tight in Qom, about 100 kilometers south of Tehran, as people streamed in. Iranian officials were worried that Montazeri's death could become new rallying points for opposition demonstrations.
Montazeri broke with the regime in the 1980s after claiming that the ruling clerics violated the ideals of the revolution by taking absolute power rather than serving as advisers to political leaders. He spent five years under house arrest and had only a minor role in political affairs after being released in 2003.
But in the summer he denounced the "despotic" tactics and "crimes" of the ruling clerics.
Many people during Monday's funeral made references to the Green Movement of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who joined the procession in Qom, witnesses said. Opposition leaders had called for people to turn out for a day of mourning, and Mousavi described Montazeri's death as a "great loss."