TEHRAN, Iran — Pro-government militiamen assaulted university students demonstrating for a second straight day and hard-liners on motorcycles harassed the top opposition leader at his office Tuesday, signs of a possible intensified crackdown after the biggest anti-government demonstrations in months.
The new unrest came as Iran's top prosecutor warned of even tougher action against protesters following marches the day before by tens of thousands at universities around the country. Demonstrations on Monday turned into fierce clashes between youths and riot police and militiamen, and more than 200 protesters were arrested.
Authorities appear concerned that the protest movement launched after disputed presidential elections in June could pick up new steam.
In Monday's unrest, students showed an increased fervor and boldness, openly breaking the biggest taboo in Iran, burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.
At Tehran University, several thousand students gathered for a new protest Tuesday at the Engineering College, and hard-line Basij militiamen attacked them, throwing stones and firing tear gas, witnesses said. At least one student was dragged away, the witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing retribution. Foreign journalists, including The Associated Press, have been barred from covering protests.
Footage posted on the Internet, said to be from Tuesday, showed a large crowd of students in front of the college waving Iranian flags, then jostling to get away from the militiamen. Some cry out in warning, "Basiji, Basiji." Inside the college building, students lit papers into a bonfire in an attempt to ward off the tear gas.
Meanwhile, plainclothes men on motorcycles — likely Basijis — confronted the top opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi at his Tehran office.
Up to 30 men on motorcycles, some in masks, blocked Mousavi as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses.
Mousavi got out of his car and shouted at them, "You're agents. Do whatever you've been ordered to do, kill me, beat me, threaten me," before his aides hustled him back inside, the Gooya News Web site reported. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.
During Monday's demonstrations, hard-line students mobbed Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard at Tehran University, spraying her with pepper spray before her supporters took her away, opposition Web sites reported.
Hard-line clerics and commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guard have called for the arrest of Mousavi, accusing him of sparking protests and conspiring against Iran's clerical leadership. Arresting Mousavi or other top opposition leaders would be a major escalation, likely to spark greater turmoil — and so far the government has balked at taking the step.
But Iran's top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, did not rule out action against Mousavi.
When asked at a press conference if the judiciary will pursue Mousavi, he said, "We will not tolerate anyone who commits actions against security, and we will confront them," according to the Fars news agency.
Ejehi warned the judiciary will take a new no-tolerance policy toward protesters.
"So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied," he said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
He demanded Tehran prosecutors take stronger action against those "who violate public order and damage public properties."
Tehran's police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday's demonstrations. They were detained for "violating public order," including setting fire to vehicles and chanting slogans, he said, according to IRNA.
Those arrested will be handed over to the judiciary for prosecution, he said. There was no immediate word on the number of arrests outside Tehran.
The turnout in Monday's protests — fueled by students marching by the thousands on more than a dozen campuses around the country — showed that months of arrests and government intimidation had failed to stamp out the movement.
A wave of arrests since July succeeded in crushing the massive protests by hundreds of thousands that erupted after the election, which the opposition says Mousavi won but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole by fraud.
More than 100 politicians, activists and protesters have been put on a mass trial before the Revolutionary Court, accused of being part of a foreign-backed plot to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Five have been sentenced to death and 80 others to prison terms up to 15 years. In recent weeks, more than 100 student leaders were arrested ahead of Monday's demonstration, and several have been given heavy prison sentences.
Since the summer, the opposition has held major protests only about once a month — timed to coincide with the many occasions on Iran's political and religious calendar that traditionally bring street demonstrations. The strategy aims to drum up as many people as possible and draw more attention.
Authorities may be concerned because the coming months could heat up, with several key occasions that give the opposition a pretext for bringing supporters into the street.
In mid-December, the Islamic holy month of Moharram begins — and throughout the month Iranians traditionally hold mass mourning ceremonies. Next comes the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which is marked by 10 days of celebrations in early February.