Presidential Palace in Tehran raided; Khatami's Fate Unknown
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Black-clad masked commandos stormed into the
of the Presidential Palace in Tehran early on Sunday morning amid
in an apparent move to arrest Mohammad Khatami, Iran's reformist
President, after an earlier attempt went wrong.
The early morning raid by the commandos wielding submachineguns
hours of drama and confusion over the fate of Khatami, the popularly
elected President who had come under increasing pressure by hardline
conservatives over the past year.
The standoff began earlier in the night after police rammed the gates
the presidential palace with a beige van. Carrying military assault
rifles, police jumped out of the vehicle and shouted at people and
journalists to get out of the way. Two more vans followed, carrying
of the hooded police inside.
Concussion grenade flashes and gunfire enveloped the complex grounds.
Smoke was seen rising into the air. Some of the special forces smashed
through windows as riot police held people outside the gates.
Local media, citing judiciary sources, said police had the task of
arresting Khatami during the night. Silence from inside the compound
the early morning storming raised the possibility of a standoff
the commandos and the presidential security guards.
A political source told AP Khatami had been presented with an arrest
warrant on Saturday night but told police he did not recognize it.
Earlier on Saturday, former culture minister Ataollah Mohajerani, and
Tehran city council member Saeed Hajjarian had been arrested and taken
a courthouse to face the presiding hardline judge Saeed Mortazavi.
Hajjarian had just returned to Tehran from two weeks of medical
in Austria, for injuries received in a failed assassination attempt
As police stood guard inside the compound, outside the gates hundreds
riot police kept watch on about 7,000 bystanders and supporters of the
embattled president. An armored personnel carrier was parked nearby.
One senior Iranian political source said problems with the arrest were
to different stances of the police and the presidential guards, who
taken from the ranks of the elite revolutionary guards, or the
``The Pasdaran has so far prevented legal procedure,'' the source, who
declined to be named, told AP.
The United States and other diplomatic powers were left holding their
breath after Khatami appeared briefly waving to his supporters outside
compound, and confusion surrounded his fate.
Apparently talking from the palace after the first arrest attempt, he
his brother, a parliament deputy, that he was fine.
``At the moment I am having a meeting with Abtahi [chief of staff] and
others here and I am very well,'' he told his brother, Mohammad Reza
Future Hanging In Balance
Khatami's future and that of the Iranian reform movement hung in the
balance after the arrival of the commandos at high speed in a beige
and several other vehicles. Shots rang out and glass was smashed as
took up positions inside and outside the palace.
Calm descended on the area sometime after 3 a.m. after the commando
operation and reporters had no way of knowing what was going on behind
In Washington, a U.S. official said: ``We have received communications
through the Swiss government that Mr. Khatami is under siege in his
The official said he had no further information on what charges
had been arrested for, nor if it was just a detention or house arrest,
not an actual arrest.
The reported move came shortly after Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati of the
powerful Guardians Council overseeing Iranian elections, told
that the council ``would certainly reject Mr. Khatami's credentials as
candidate for the upcoming June presidential elections, if he were to
Speculation that the Iranian leader's arrest was imminent soared
on Saturday after a police van, an ambulance and several unmarked cars
showed up near the presidential compound.
Citing a police source, a reporter of the reformist paper
told AP that police had tried to replace some of Khatami's bodyguards,
move that had been resisted by both the guards and the Iranian
AP's correspondent in Tehran, April Fools, reports that the city is
now, with most of the population laughing their heads off at the big
of joke that this so called news story has been. Happy Sizdah Bedar!