MORE PROTESTERS ARRESTED

TEHRAN, 26 Feb. (IPS) As the United Nations team on human rights prepare to leave Iran, security services operated more arrests among friends and families of political prisoners, trying to meet the five-member delegation, eyewitnesses reported Wednesday, after meeting with some prominent political detainees.

They said police used tear gas and plainclothes men "white arms" to dispersed a crowd of more than 500 people, among them ordinary men and women, including young ones of both sexes, gathered in front of the hotel Laaleh, trying to meet the mission.

About a dozen people were arrested, including four young women, by security forces deployed near the hotel, the sources told Iran Press Service.

At least 30 of the demonstrators, who included relatives of political prisoners, tried to block traffic in front of the hotel, but were prevented by police without the use of force, a correspondent for the French news agency AFP reported.

A US-Based students organisation, which has good connections with inside the country, also confirmed the reports, adding that "tens" of demonstrators, mainly composed by women and youth, were beaten up by the regime's plainclothes men, as they tried to march toward the Laaleh Hotel.

The arrested were thrown on the ground and beaten up before being dumped in security vehicles leaving the scenes for the regime's detention and interrogation centres, the Students Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI) said in a communiqué.

Slogans against the regime, its leaders and in favour of the release of political dissidents and a free election on the choice of a future secular regime were shouted by many of the participants.

For several days, Farsi satellite stations based in the United States and run by Iranian opposition groups in exile have been calling for demonstrations outside the hotel.

On Saturday police used tear-gas to disperse 70 protestors outside the hotel and arrested eight of them.

Five members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, headed by French jurist Louis Joinet, have been in Iran on a landmark 12-day visit since February 15.

The UN group has asked to meet with 30 political prisoners, and they are also due to visit several detention centres in Iran and hold talks with government and judicial officials.

Mr. Mohammad Seyfzadeh, a lawyer for the outspoken Naser Zarafshan, a lawyer defending the families of some of the victims of the "Chain Murder", case told journalists that he and Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, who also represents Mr. Zarafshan, were present at the meting between the international delegation with his client, as well as Mr. Mohammad Ali Daadkhah and Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, respectively lawyers for other victims of the same case and members of the Iran Freedom Movement.

But it was not known if the delegation was authorised to also meet Dr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a former Member of the Majles and an influential dissident who was arrested on Monday upon his arrival to Tehran, coming from Paris.

Mr. Sh’oleh Sa’di angered the leader of the Islamic Republic, ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, after publishing an open letter in which he questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Khameneh'i as the leader of the regime and criticised his policies, both domestic and international, including his staunch opposition to dialogue with the United States.

A professor of international law at Tehran and Shiraz universities, Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di also made enemies among the official reformers when he said that the reforms promised by President Mohammad Khatami where "dead". ENDS PROTESTS CONTINUE 26203