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Head of top reform party blasts jail terms over German meeting
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posted January 16, 2001 09:53
TEHRAN, Jan 15 (AFP) - Deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad-Reza Khatami said Monday that partisan politics were behind the jail terms given to several reformists for attending an "un-Islamic" meeting in Germany.
"Those people who attended the Berlin conference did not commit a crime
and their treatment by the judiciary was wholly factional and politically motivated," he said in an interview with the Iran News.
Khatami, brother of the president and head of the nation's largest pro-reform party, blasted the conservative-dominated courts which have repeatedly hampered President Mohammad Khatami's reform programme.
He said the rulings, which included 10-year jail terms for maverick journalist Akbar Ganji as well as a translator at Germany's Tehran embassy, were "unprecedented" and decided upon with "factional confrontation in mind."
But he also expressed concern over German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision to cancel a planned visit to Tehran, saying he deplored the move if it was "meant to interfere in our judiciary and internal affairs."
Germany's foreign ministry on Sunday summoned the Tehran ambassador in Berlin to express its "deep concern" over the verdicts.
The Berlin conference, staged in April by a foundation with links to Germany's Green party, centred on the future of political reforms in Iran after reformists won a parliamentary majority in last February's elections.
The gathering, which was disrupted by the Iranian opposition in exile, was deemed "un-Islamic," in part because a man disrobed in protest and a woman danced with bare arms.
Several other defendants were handed down sentences of four to nine years.
Germany is Iran's largest European trade partner and the affair looks certain to re-open old wounds that were on the mend after the president's visit to Berlin last year.
"It seems our principal trade partners in Europe will never learn from past mistakes," the Kayhan International daily said in an editorial which recalled German arms sales to Baghdad during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
"Our ambassador in Germany has nothing to explain," the paper said.
"What he needs ... is to inform Mr. Gerhard Schroeder to never entertain the idea of visiting Iran, because we don't see any point in his coming."
All times are PT (US)
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