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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK
'Flirting' grocer's arrest triggers riots

The arrest of a shopkeeper accused of flirting with a judge's wife triggered riots in the Iranian town of Qir on Sunday.

Newspapers said the violence erupted after a local judge ordered the arrest of the grocer, accusing him of flirting with his wife while the couple were shopping at a local bazaar.

Cars were burned in the streets, and a local court-house was set on fire. A police station was also torched and the local government offices were pelted with stones.

According to the Iranian Bahar newspaper, the arrested man was cross-eyed, giving a false impression to the judge's wife that he was leering at her.

When local officials ignored a complaint from the public about the grocer's arrest, fellow shopkeepers closed down the bazaar in Qir, a small town in Fars province, in protest.

There were no reports of any injuries during the violence, but the grocer was allegedly beaten up while in custody.

Over-reaction

Police fired shots into the air to disperse the protesters, who were angry with what they perceived as over-reaction by the authorities.

"The judge should have filed a case against the grocer and not called the police to arrest him," said Fars province Judiciary Chief, Hossein Ali Amiri.

Mr Amiri told reporters that a "misunderstanding" between the judge and the shopkeeper had led to the tensions.

Like many provincial towns in Iran, Qir, 220 km (140 miles) south of the provincial capital Shiraz, has a conservative religious environment with strong family values.

According to the official Iranian Islamic Republic news agency website, the authorities have now restored order to the town.

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23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's youth: Force for change
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