London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ayatollah A-Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Kazamini Baroujerdi, a high-ranking opposition leader, was arrested in Tehran on Sunday along with hundreds of his followers.
Baroujerdi opposes the rule of clerics in Iran and has not hidden his view that religion and politics should not mix. The Iranian police blame the ayatollah for incitement of students against the regime. For the past nine weeks hundreds of the ayatollah’s followers surrounded his house while the police blockaded the house attempting to arrest him. In the early hours of Sunday the police stormed into the building with bulldozers and armored vehicles. Eyewitnesses say a few people were killed during the attack.
A few minutes before his arrest, Baroujerdi was interviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat.
“I have covered myself with a winding sheet and I am ready to be killed while protecting my ideology… Our people have tired of the political religion,” Baroujerdi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
A statement by the Iranian Interior Ministry said authorities detained several members of a “religious cult” after they attacked people with knives and acid. The ministry, in a statement posted on its Web site, did not name any of those arrested. But the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported that one of those detained was 50-year-old Boroujerdi.
The arrest of the respected cleric was followed by a wave of criticism as 400 clerics and students called on United Nations’ Secretary-General Kofi Anan to intercede on Baroujerdi’s behalf.
In August, police failed to detain Boroujerdi when his supporters clashed with police in front of his home. He was detained twice in 1995 and 2000.