Tens of thousands of Iranians took part in the funeral of a senior dissident cleric in Isfahan on Tuesday, which turned into the biggest anti-government protest in years, the BBC reported.

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The protesters chanted slogans against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for the "death to the dictator." Among other slogans, they chanted "The political prisoners must freed" and "Mousavi and Karroubi must be freed," referring to the leaders of the reformist green movement who are under house arrest in Tehran.

Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri, who died at the age of 87, was a major opponent of the hardliners in Iran's government and resigned in protest.

Iran's presidential elections are due to take place in 10 days.

The slate of candidates, vetted last week by Iran's Guardian Council, is dominated by conservatives and hardliners seen as close to Khamenei.

The eight approved candidates listed by Mehr included chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati.

Saeed Jalili, who is seen as the frontrunner in the elections, has been Iran's top nuclear negotiator since 2007. Jalili, 47, began his career as a diplomat in 1991. He has the support of ultraconservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who was previously seen as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.

The council banned two independent contenders, moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.

Iran's clerical rulers are keen to secure a high turnout that would underpin their legitimacy. They are also wary of a repeat of 2009's protests.

In 2009, protests erupted following the Iranian presidential election against the victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The demonstrations were called the Green Revolution and rallied in support of Mousavi and Karroubi.