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Author Topic:   Iran court arrests more than 30 dissidents
Vatandoost
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posted March 13, 2001 09:54     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
TEHRAN, March 12 (Reuters) - Agents of Iran's hardline revolutionary courts raided a meeting of opposition activists in Tehran and arrested more than 30 people, relatives of the detainees said on Monday.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a leading reformist journalist recently freed from jail on bail after months of detention, was among those arrested late on Sunday, they said.

The detainees also included dissident leaders Habibollah Payman and Ali Reza Rajaie and several university professors -- all members of a loose coalition of Islamic nationalists fighting for greater freedom and democracy in Iran.

They were arrested hours after embattled President Mohammad Khatami called in a speech in parliament for more tolerance in dealing with critics.

Judicial authorities made no immediate comment about the relatives' reports of the arrests.

Dozens of relatives gathered outside parliament on Monday to complain about the arrests after being turned away by revolutionary courts, witnesses said.

They met reformist deputies, including the head of a parliamentary committee on constitutional rights, they said.

Reformist MP Mohsen Armin condemned the arrests, which took place on the eve of a visit to Russia by Khatami.

"It has now become a routine to have a crisis during the president's foreign trips. To arrest these people at this time is contrary to our national interests," Armin was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.

Conservative-dominated courts have arrested many reformist activists and closed dozens of independent newspapers in a backlash to Khatami's liberal reforms.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised earlier this month to take tougher measures against those "seeking to overthrow" the Islamic state and warned government officials against showing any tolerance.

Many pro-reform activists, including liberal cleric Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, have been in "temporary" custody for months pending trial.
Eshkevari has been charged with apostasy -- giving up one's beliefs -- by a clerical court and faces a possible death sentence.

Family members of the latest detainees said they had not been given reasons for the arrests.

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5) Official says arrest of 20 "conspirators" not connected to Khatami's visit

BBC Monitoring Service
Mar 12, 2001

Text of report by Iranian radio on 12 March

The head of Tehran's Islamic Revolution Courts has announced that efforts of a group of people who intended to hatch plots against the Islamic Republic were neutralized.

Hojjat ol-Eslam val-Moslemin Mobashsheri said: After obtaining reliable information that some conspiratorial activities were carried out against the state in a house, officers of the court arrived in the house on Sunday evening [11 March] to confiscate some documents. After arriving in the house, the officers saw that a group of the so-called religio-nationalists who have always conspired against the system had gathered in the house. They were busy planning to create anxiety among the public and to organize
provocative meetings.

He added: There were 20 people in this house, and all of them were arrested. And since some of them were under suspicion and the court
intended to summon them in the near future, all the persons in the house were arrested in accordance with instructions of the judge investigating the case.

In connection with the remarks made a member of the Majlis's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee to the effect that there is some connection between the arrests and President Khatami's trip to Moscow, Hojjat ol-Eslam Mobashsheri added: Such allegations are baseless, because the arrests of this group on charges of conspiring against the Islamic Republic has nothing to do with Mr Khatami's visit.

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posted March 14, 2001 14:35     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
ARREST OF NATIONALIST-RELIGIOUS GIVES A NEW PICTURE OF KHATAMI

TEHRAN 13 Mar. (Iran Press Service) Forty Iranian activists affiliated to the nationalist-religious movement, among them some prominent personalities, were arrested Sunday hours after President Mohammad Khatami, in a lengthy speech pronounced in the Majles (parliament), had slammed those who call for a change in the present Iranian Constitution, calling for the separation of religion from politics.

Agents acting on orders from an Islamic revolution court raided the house of Mr. Mohammad Basteh-Negar, a nationalist-religious activist at five in the afternoon and arrested all the men and women who had gathered there to review the situation and evaluate Mr. Khatami’s address to the nation.

The arrest that many Iranian observers and political analysts said was unprecedented by the size in the past decade took place at a time that President Khatami was meeting with the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, getting the last instructions concerning his visit to Moscow scheduled for Monday.

Eyewitnesses present at the scene said the agents produced warrant delivered by the Islamic revolution court charging the participants of "fomenting plots against the security of the State and discussing ways of toppling the regime".

Observers said the decision of arresting so many people, among them known and popular personalities such as Mr. Habibollah Peyman, the leader of the Militant Muslim Movement and his wife, several independent journalists like Mr. Taqi Rahmani, Mrs. Fatemeh Govara’i and Ahmad Zeydabadi, who was just released from prison on bail, his father and brother and prominent scholars and clergymen, islamist reformers etc. could not be operated without the prior knowledge and authorisation from the leader.

Mrs. Mahdyeh Mohammad, the wife of Mr. Zeydabadi told the Persian service of the BBC that the arrest was surprising as such meetings were not new, as most of the arrested men and women, all political analysts and experts, used to organise such gathering, discussing and debating current political and social issues.

They also pointed that coming hours before Mr. Khatami’s departure for Moscow, the arrest of so many personalities belonging to the nationalist-religious current not only was a bad and humiliated blow to the very person of Mr. Khatami, but also weakened his position.

Same analysts also noted that Mr. Khameneh’i had arranged same kind of humiliation and crisis for the President before his departure to official visits he paid to Italy, France or Germany, aimed at reminding host authorities that he is the boss, the visitor being nothing more than a puppet.

In recent speeches, Mr. Khatami himself has admitted that under the present Constitution, the President has no practical power.

Families of the detainees immediately went to the branch of the Islamic revolution court that had issued the warrant but were turned back, being told that nobody knows were their
relatives have been taken to.

Analysts said without having a specific formation, the nationalist-religious current incorporates political formations such as the MMM, the Iran Freedom Movement of the Iran Farda Society of Mr. Ezzatollah Sahabi, the veteran journalist and politician arrested some months ago because of his participation in the controversial Berlin Conference.

"The nationalist-religious enjoys great sympathy and support from the middle classes and the students because of their independence from both the government, the bulk of the reformists and the ruling conservatives", observed one political analyst who asked not be named.

"Because of their independence and the fact that they call for modernising Islam and bringing the faith with modernity in the one hand and criticising the shortcomings of the reformists even though that they support the reform process, the nationalist-religious are hated by the conservatives and feared by the reformists" the analyst added.

He said though the nationalist-religious "honours" the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, but at the same time they reject its component of "velayat faqih", or the absolute rule of the leader, in this case Ayatollah Khameneh’i.

Many Khatami supporters were dismayed at the fact that he went to Moscow despite the humiliation and insult he had been subject to by the conservatives.

They said until now, they thought Mr. Khatami was a man respecting his own personality, but after he failed in his Sunday speech to have the slightest word for the dozen of his freinds imprisoned and the 30 publications shut for supporting him in the one hand and now going to Moscow while he should have refused under the appalling situation Khameneh’i had created for him on the other, "it become clear that he is no better than the wicked conservatives". ENDS NATIONALIST-RELIGIOUS ARRESTED 13301

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posted March 19, 2001 11:05     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran's reforms in doubt after arrest of progressives

The Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor

March 14, 2001

THE fate of Iran's political reforms has been thrown into renewed doubt after the arrest of academics, journalists and other progressives for plotting against the regime, a capital offence.

President Mohammad Khatami: 'We have no other choice but to establish democracy in our country' The round-up challenged President Mohammad Khatami hours after he told
parliament in Teheran: "We have no other choice but to establish democracy in our country."

He was elected in 1997 on a promise to modernise Iran and adopt political freedoms but they have been virtually halted by conservatives around Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme religious leader, who controls the security forces and the judiciary. He has yet to announce whether he will seek a second term next June.

Conservatives have forced the wholesale closure of reformist newspapers, ordered the arrests of progressives and blocked legislation to which they object. In the latest move, security forces raided the home of Mohammad Bastehnegar, son-in-law of a leading liberal cleric, and arrested members
of the reformist religious-nationalist alliance celebrating the release on bail of Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, a journalist accused of spreading propaganda against the regime.

Opposition sources said 30 to 40 people were seized, but the Revolutionary Court said 20 were arrested at a meeting of "so-called nationalist and religious forces" who "have always tried to plot against the regime". The
charge could be considered as "war against God", punishable by death or 10 years in prison.

Nine people, including Zeid-Abadi, were freed on Monday, but other prominent opposition figures, such as Habibollah Peyman and Taghi Rahmani, were still being held. Many were linked to the banned, but tolerated, opposition Iran Freedom Movement.

Ali Akbar Mohtashami, leader of the majority reformist faction in parliament, was quoted in the newspaper Aftab-e Yazd as saying: "These arrests cannot be justified. They will only deepen the people's mistrust of the judiciary."

Maurice Copithorne, the United Nations rapporteur on Iran, said suppression of the reformist press and violent confrontations with students left the people feeling that the president had lost his struggle to create a more tolerant society.

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Iran Court Says Dissidents Worked with 'Terrorists'

TEHRAN (Reuters) Mar. 18 - Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Court has accused a dozen religious nationalists arrested a week ago of being in league with outlawed armed opposition rebels, the official IRNA news
agency said Sunday. Agents of the court raided a Tehran apartment last Sunday and detained 21 members of the Religious-Nationalist Alliance, a loose grouping of intellectuals advocating a more liberal interpretation of Islam. Nine were
later released.

A court statement said all activities of the alliance, as well as the once tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran, were illegal and would be dealt with according to the law.

``(They) have been in harmony with hypocrites and terrorists to spread rumors and lies in the press,'' the statement said.

The term hypocrites is used by the state to refer to People's Mujahideen rebels who regularly mount mortar and rocket attacks on Iranian security forces in a campaign to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

The court said the 12 would be charged with ``plotting to overthrow the state,'' a crime equivalent to ``moharebeh'' or ''waging war against God'' which carries the death penalty.

Relatives Saturday pleaded to the authorities to know where the group was being held. Court officials would only say the 12 were being held in solitary confinement.

The arrest of the group, mainly university professors and writers, came only hours after moderate President Mohammad Khatami called for more tolerance in a parliamentary speech.

Khatami's attempts to introduce greater freedom of speech and political pluralism have been thwarted by a backlash from hard-liners close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who control the judiciary and
security services.

Khamenei has repeatedly said that he will not tolerate dissent and, earlier this month, warned government officials against showing any tolerance toward those he said ``seek to overthrow'' the system.

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Arrested nationalists sought to topple Islamic regime - Court

Tehran, March 18, IRNA -- Tehran's Revolutionary Court on Sunday said that
the 21 Islamic nationalists arrested last Sunday were conspiring to overthrow Iran's Islamic regime under the guise of reforms and by abusing the press to spread rumors.

In a statement faxed to IRNA, it said that they are apparently linked to the technically outlawed but somewhat tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran.

It said that the detainees had fine-tuned their calls with terrorists and hypocrites, an allusion to the Iraqi-based terrorist Mujahideen Khalq Organization.

"FMI and the so-called Religious-Nationalist Alliance are not entitled to conduct any activity and the offenders will be seriously prosecuted," the statement warned.

Plotting to topple the Islamic regime amounts to `moharaba' (waging war against Islam and the Islamic state) which carries death sentence under Iran's Islamic penal code.

The Islamic nationalists were raided at a meeting hosted by Mohammad Bastehnegar, an FMI member. Among those arrested were 20 guests, including five university professors.

ine were released on bail last Tuesday.

Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, a leading reformist journalist recently freed on bail after months of detention, was among those arrested.

Dissident leaders Habibollah Payman and Ali Reza Rajaie, members of the nationalist-religious alliance, were also among those arrested.

A'zam Taleqani, the daughter of the late senior cleric Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleqani, was another prominent figure who attended the gathering and was also arrested and detained.

Dozens of relatives of the detainees gathered outside parliament last Monday to complain about the arrests after being turned away by the revolutionary court.

Deputy parliamentary speaker Behzad Nabavi referred to the arrests, at the opening of Monday's session of the reformist-dominated parliament, as "another rash act committed last night on the eve of an important visit by the president," adding that he hoped "it would be sorted out quickly."

Other Iranian reformist groups have also denounced the mass arrests. Iran's biggest pro-reform caucus, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, blasted the arrests as "incredible and inexplicable" in a letter to
Judiciary Head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. The letter was published on Monday.

In the meantime, 152 MP also censured the arrest.

Last week, some 40 Iranian MPs, in a letter to Information Minister Ali Younessi, questioned him over these latest mass arrests.

An MP from Tehran and one of the signatories to the letter, Davood Soleymani, said the MPs had asked information on the possibility of his appearing in parliament to comment on the circumstances of the arrests.

Soleymani, IIPF member, called on the information ministry to take a direct hand in enforcing security in the country, independent from other organizations and ministries.

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Families of arrested dissidents send letter to head of Judiciary

BBC Monitoring Service
Mar 18, 2001

Text of report by Iranian newspaper Aftab-e Yazd web site on 18 March

The families of 12 nationalist-religious figures have sent their second open letter to the head of the Judiciary, [Ayatollah Mahmud]
Hashemi-Shahrudi. They have asked him to serve the cause of justice. They declared that the arrest and detention of their espouses by officers clearly contravened the legal procedure and mentioned examples of that.

The letter criticizes the way in which [those figures] were arrested and detained. It also raised questions about the claims made by the head of the Revolution Court:

1. He has accused those present in the house of "plotting to agitate the people and organize provocative assemblies. Is there any reason, proof or document on the basis of which he has levelled such accusations?

2. Should those who make such serious and baseless accusations against a groups of citizens not be prosecuted?

3. He has said that those present [at the meeting] were arrested on the instructions issued by the judge because charges had been raised against a number of those who were present at the meeting and that they were to be summoned [to court] shortly afterwards.

Firstly, if a group of those individuals were going to be summoned [to court], then, what was the point of arresting them at night and without an arrest warrant? Why did the officers do that? Secondly, if charges had
been raised against a number of those individuals, then why is it that an entire group of people were arrested?

4. It is noteworthy that he has said that 20 people had been arrested and that 10 people had been released. In fact, there are at least 12 people who are still under arrest.

Your excellency, Mr Shahrudi, you talk about reforming the Judiciary incessantly. Therefore, you are expected to issue instructions for carrying out an investigation into blatant violations of the law and for preventing our citizens, especially active and well-known figures, from being insulted. Thus you should prove your commitment to what you have said by releasing them quickly. We want answers to each one of the cases mentioned above and those answers must be based on well-reasoned arguments and legal principles. We will not stop making demands until we have got good answers.

Yesterday, those families also took part in a news conference at the headquarters of Islamic Women's Society and enumerated the aforementioned cases. They said that there were certain criteria for raising the charge
of taking action against the national security of the country which did not apply to the cases of those who were arrested recently. They said that what had been published by Resalat newspaper - which had written that a group of radical elements of the Freedom Movement and the National Front
had been arrested - was totally false. They said that none of those who had been arrested were even members of those two factions so how could they possibly be extremists?

They also referred to the arrest of Ali Reza Raja'i who had managed to obtain 800,000 votes in the 29 Bahman elections [reference to parliamentary elections, 18 February 2000]. They said: Can one say that those 800,000 votes were cast in favour of overthrowing the system?

During the news conference, the families referred to the policy pursued by the national-religious faction during the incidents which occurred at the [Tehran] University dormitory, as well as during other crises and incidents which caused agitation in the country.

They stated that the policy pursued by that faction always placed emphasis on the importance of preserving peace and calm. They said that there was no justification for making arrests in a safe place - adding that it would have no effect except making the introduction of reforms more costly. They
called on the president to issue a constitutional warning regarding this
matter.

They also emphasized that the national-religious faction was committed to upholding the constitution in practice and declared that that faction considered itself to be a supporter of Iran and Islam and that it did not want any group, even the right-wing faction, to be eliminated.

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Iran courts close down main opposition party just ahead of polls

TEHRAN, March 18 (AFP) - Iran's revolutionary courts effectively closed down the nation's main opposition party on Sunday, less than three months before the next presidential elections in June. The move came as the conservative judiciary banned three more publications close to the reform movement of embattled President Mohammad Khatami, whose supporters have expressed concern he may not run for a second term.

The Iran Freedom Movement (IFM), which until now had been tolerated despite an official ban, was barred from conducting any activities by the hardline revolutionary courts, which said it sought to overthrow the
regime.

"All activities of the so-called Iran freedom movement are forbidden and illegal," a court official said, just a week after around 20 people with links to the group were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy.

The official, quoted by state radio, said further details about the case would be made public in the near future.

The arrests were condemned by reformists including the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the nation's largest pro-reform party which is headed by Khatami's brother Mohammad-Reza.

Formed in the 1960s, the IFM played a key role in the nation's Islamic revolution of 1979, with founder Mehdi Bazargan serving as prime minister of the post-revolutionary provisional government.

Officially banned in 1988 by Iran's then supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny, t appeals especially to young people and its several thousand members include academics, lawyers, doctors, journalists, architects and
more liberal clerics.

The progressive Islamist group has been on the front pages since last Sunday, when security forces swooped on a private Tehran home where around two dozen people with links to the group were meeting.

The group said the gathering was to celebrate the release of journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi after some eight months in prison, but the judiciary said those present were conspiring to oust the regime.

In its statement on state radio, the revolutionary tribunal said that IFM members were among those charged with "collaborating with counter-revolutionary and terrorist groups."

It said the ban on IFM activities extended to other unnamed "nationalist and religious" groups, effectively muzzling the liberal opposition before voters go to the polls in June.

Such groups are accused of "conspiring and sowing discord among the leadership of the regime," the revolutionary court said in its statement.

The ban comes after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday blasted the foreign media for dividing the leadership of the nation by favouring reformists.

"The enemy seeks to divide us and thus hurt our regime," Khamenei said, calling on reformist leaders to "break free from propaganda in their favor."

Meanwhile three more reformist-leaning periodicals were shuttered on Sunday, the Tehran judiciary announced.

The weeklies Mobine and Jameh-e Madani as well as the monthly Peyam-e Emrouz were ordered to stop publication and their directors will be charged in court, state radio said, citing a judiciary official.

All are linked to Khatami's reform movement and considered hostile to conservatives, who have shown the limits of presidential power with their control over key state institutions such as the courts and police.

Some 30 publications have been closed down by the courts, including every major pro-reform daily paper, and several close allies of the president are among reformists who have been jailed or are facing charges.

Earlier Sunday, meanwhile, some 400 figures of Iran's progressive and liberal movements released a petition calling for the release of dissident cleric Hassan-Yussefi Eshkevari, another close ally of the president.

His fate is unknown after a secret trial by Iran's special religious court after he allegedly told a political conference in Germany last year that Muslim dress for women should be optional.

The petition was signed by the current head of the IFM, Ibrahim Yazdi, as well as Bazargan's son.

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Iran arrests 40 pro-reform activists

The Financial Times
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

April 8 2001 15:32GMT

Iran's judiciary on Sunday announced the arrests of about 40 more political activists linked to an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic system, but the main pro-reform party close to President Mohammad Khatami said the detentions were intended to undermine the presidential election in June.

The arrests, carried out in Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Zanjan on Saturday, brought to over 60 the number of nationalists opposed to
absolute clerical rule who have been detained on the orders of the hardline Revolutionary Court since mid-March.

The court said the "confessions" of those arrested earlier had led to the latest swoop. Details of the alleged plot against the Islamic system have not been revealed.

The pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest party in parliament and led by the presidents brother, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, condemned the crackdown.

"There is serious suspicion that these non-judicial decisions and illogical and illegal ways are aimed at the peoples political determination and at preventing their massive turnout in the June 8 presidential elections," the party said.

Among the latest arrested were politicians prominent in the early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution, including 61-year-old Hashem Sabaghian and 84-year-old Ahmad Sadr, both former ministers of the provisional
government under then prime minister Mehdi Bazargan. The son-in-law and nephew of Mr Bazargan were also detained.

Pro-reform analysts see the crackdown as part of a campaign by hardliners within the establishment to persuade President Mohammad Khatami not to run for a second term in June, or failing that to weaken his credibility and
enduce a low turnout. Mr Khatami has not yet disclosed whether he intends to seek another four years.

Abbas Abdi, a reformist activist, commented: "Khatami's absence in the elections should be considered as the end of a specific era in Irans political life and, in that case, one should wait for serious incidents in the political atmosphere."

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Iran's Khatami Deplores Mass Arrests of Reformers

TEHRAN (Reuters) Apr. 8 - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday deplored the mass arrest of intellectuals and liberal activists, saying the detentions hampered his drive to create a modern Islamic state.
``I do not see such measures as benefiting the (Islamic) system and people...I cannot help feeling regret,'' state television quoted Khatami as saying in a meeting with university professors.

``Boosting the climate of intolerance in society will dishearten intellectuals...Our nation desires nothing more than freedom, progress and guaranteed rights.''

Khatami urged the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi to intervene to ensure the rights of those arrested were respected.

``We should remove provocative issues so we can create a climate to achieve both security and advancement, an atmosphere for free exchange of opinion,'' he said.

Agents of the hardline Revolutionary Court raided the homes of leading liberal Islamists in Tehran and the provinces on Saturday and arrested 42 prominent opposition figures associated with the banned Iran Freedom
Movement.

It was the second mass round-up of dissidents in less than a month and will come as a new blow to Khatami's campaign for greater freedom and democracy in the Islamic republic.

The Freedom Movement, Iran's leading dissident movement, advocates pursuit of freedom and democracy through non-violent means.

HARDLINE JUDGE WARNS OF ARRESTS

In a statement carried by television, Ali Mobasheri, the head of Tehran's revolutionary court, accused the suspects of seeking to overthrow the Islamic state.

He said more arrests could follow amid a backlash to the reformist challenges to Islamic rule.

``There is the possibility to arrest some members of certain factions engaged in activities against the state's security and attempts to overthrow the system,'' Mobasheri said, referring to reformist activists
and officials.

``Certain political figures are trying to politicize the arrests. We will not hesitate to track down those who seek to strike a blow at and overthrow the system,'' the judge said.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's leading pro-reform group, earlier criticized the arrests, saying they were intended to discourage people from voting in the crucial presidential polls in June.

``Iranians should keep in mind the main reason behind the detentions is to discourage massive participation in the polls,'' it said in a statement, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

``People should maintain their political presence, insist on reforms and say 'no' to methods contrary to the spirit of freedom, justice and the rule of law,'' it added.

Khatami's reformist camp has been reeling from the wave of arrests and mass closure of newspapers in the past year in a crackdown apparently sanctioned by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

PRESIDENT UNABLE TO PROTECT ALLIES

The president has been unable to prevent his allies from going to prison, limiting himself to occasional complaints or criticism against
heavy-handed tactics of the judiciary.

Frustrated by repeated setbacks, Khatami has voiced doubts about seeking re-election in the forthcoming polls, adding uncertainty about the future of his reform program.

Khatami, who remains popular, has said that he would run only if he can deliver on reform promises.

The Freedom Movement has been under fire for its alleged links to top dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and because of its wide appeal among pro-democracy students.

The movement is formally outlawed, but had been tolerated until recently.

Many of those rounded up in Saturday's raids are former senior government officials, who served in an interim government after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

That government was toppled by the Shi'ite Muslim clergy because of its secular views and for being too ``pro-Western.''

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Reform camp's major political party denounces recent arrests

Tehran, April 8, IRNA -- The Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) on Sunday strongly condemned the action taken by the revolutionary court in detaining several political activists affiliated to the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) as ambiguous and unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic. The FMI had been tolerated in the past 20 years.

The political party which has majority in the parliament said in a strongly worded statement that the massive arrests by the revolutionary court is an attempt to overshadow the people's presence in the political scene and their political will.

The IIPF said that the current waves of arrests have targeted to tarnish the upcoming presidential election slated for June 8.

The statement said, "The Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) voices deep regret over action taken by the revolutionary court and appeals for the people's lively and meaningful participation in the upcoming
presidential election through which they opt for the acceptable norms. Say 'no' to the norms which run counter to the spirit of
freedom, justice and lawful behavior."

The reform camp's major political party said that the explanations given by the revolutionary court have failed to remove the ambiguity in the recent waves of arrests of political activists.

The IIPF said that there is reasonable question about the recent waves of arrests noting that the rights of those under arrest have been violated.

"The way the revolutionary court has dealt with the political activists runs counter to the spirit of law and justice and is a political overture to mar the upcoming presidential election," the statement said.

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Families of detained nationalists slam insolent court behavior

Tehran, April 9, IRNA -- The family members of eight of the 42 Islamic nationalists arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime have called on the reformist-majority parliament (Majlis) to deal with what they called insolent behavior of the Tehran Revolutionary Court.

Tahereh Taleqani, wife of the detained Mohammad Bastenegar linked to the banned Freedom Movement of Iran, told IRNA that a parliamentary committee dealing with the status of prisoners of conscience is to make a probe into the arrests. Bastenegar was the host of the March meeting when the first
swoop was launched.

Taleqani also said that parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi has promised to probe the detentions.

She noted that the same parliamentary committee has also written a letter to the Judiciary Head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to make clear the grounds on which they have been arrested.

Tehran's Revolutionary Court announced Sunday the arrests of 42 Islamic nationalists, mostly linked to the banned Freedom Movement of Iran, saying they were in cahoots with the Iraqi-based terrorist group of the Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO).

Seeking to overthrow the Islamic regime amounts to Moharaba (waging war against Islam and the Islamic state), a charge carrying death penalty under Iran's Islamic penal code.

On Sunday, President Mohammad Khatami expressed regret over the recent arrests of journalists, students, academics and members of political groups in Iran.

"When I see measures against the press and arrests of individual members of political groups I can only express my regret," Khatami said in a first reaction to the arrests.

President Khatami said, "As far as I know about the public opinion, such measures are not in the interest of the political system and people."

The president added, "No threat is more serious to our popular system than a situation in which the rulers of the country cannot justify their conduct for people."

Iran's largest pro-reform caucus, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), headed by Khatami's brother, condemned the latest arrests Sunday.

"These unprecedented arrests are an attempt to influence political participation and the will of the people," it said, urging the people to turn out en masse for the June presidential election.

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Iran's parliament summons intelligence chief to probe mass arrests

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Apr. 9 - Iran's reformist-dominated parliament summoned the intelligence minister for questioning about the arrests of 42 dissidents by hard-liners over the weekend, a lawmaker said Monday. Relatives said that the hard-line court that ordered the arrests refused to say where the detainees, members of the Freedom Movement, were being kept or to show evidence to back up charges that the dissidents were seeking to "overthrow the Islamic establishment."

Reformist legislator Abdollah Sohrabi said Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi was expected to appear in the Majlis, or parliament, on Tuesday, to explain whether his ministry was consulted before the judiciary ordered the arrests.

Fereshteh Bazargan, whose husband Mohammad Hossein Baniassadi was one of those detained, said Monday that court officials were not responding to questions.

"Court officials even don't bother to tell us where our loved ones are being held, and what their situation is," said Bazargan. She is the daughter of Mehdi Bazargan, the late founder of the Freedom Movement who was briefly prime minister after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

One of the detainees, Mostafa Mofidi, was freed Monday but said he was warned not to speak of what happened to him

The arrests the second of members of the Freedom Movement in less than a month come at a critical time.

Presidential elections to be held in June could determine the course of a popular reform movement that began after the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami.

Hard-liners have been trying to reverse popularly backed reforms by Khatami to grant more social and political freedoms. They now appear to be trying to clear the field ahead of the election.

Khatami has not said if he will run for another four-year term, though if he does, he is almost sure to win. Hard-liners have either arrested or barred nearly all of his closest associates from politics.

Khatami expressed his regret over the arrests on Sunday, saying "such measures are not in the interest of the political system and people."

"No threat is more serious to our popular system than a situation in which the rulers of the country cannot justify their conduct to the people," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Khatami as saying.

Last month, the Revolutionary Court banned the Freedom Movement on charges it was seeking to overthrow the Islamic establishment. Four pro-democracy newspapers also were banned, raising the number of publications closed in the past year to about 36.

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Iran's Khatami Urges Moderation After Arrests

TEHRAN (Reuters) Apr. 9 - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami appealed for moderation on Monday after security forces arrested dozens of reform-minded activists in the Islamic republic. ``Extremism is always detrimental to society. We must fight against extremism in the interest of the country and the Islamic system,'' state television quoted Khatami as saying.

Security forces raided the homes of leading liberal Islamists in Tehran and several other cities on Saturday, arresting 42 prominent opposition figures associated with the banned Iran Freedom Movement which has been under pressure for its secular pro-Western views.

It was the second mass round-up of dissidents in less than a month, as part of a conservative crackdown on Khatami's campaign on political and cultural openness.

The hardline Revolutionary Court, which ordered the arrests, has accused them of trying to overthrow the Islamic system.

Khatami has complained about the hardline crackdown, but been unable to stop the arrests and mass closure of reformist newspapers.

The reformist president said he was not trying to negate the 1979 Islamic revolution and sought to reform the system.

``Freedom of speech leads to intellectual growth. We must shed rigid-mindedness and defend freedoms,'' Khatami said.

RAID AND ARRESTS

As he was speaking on Monday, security forces raided and closed down the offices of a reformist group and arrested the staff at a cultural center run by Iran freedom Movement, a secular group advocating freedom and democracy.

Ali Mobasheri, head of Tehran revolutionary court, has accused reformers of acting against state security, threatening to haul more people into jail.

``Mobasheri's comments show that his court is biased and has no competence to investigate the case,'' said MP Nasser Qavami. ''He has convicted the accused of trying to overthrow the system before they have a chance to be
tried.''

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi is to appear at a parliamentary subcommittee on Tuesday over the recent arrests, the official IRNA news agency said.

Reformist MPs, who are in the majority in parliament, have asked Yunesi, a member of Khatami's cabinet, to explain if his forces had a hand in the arrests.

Newspapers said Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was also due to testify in parliament this week.

Some MPs have voiced concern about the detention of activists in a secret location run by the Revolutionary Guards, east of the capital Tehran, where prisoners are kept without access to lawyers or relatives.

The health ministry has been asked to submit a report to parliament on prisoners' health, the newspapers said.

Parliament has tried in vain to end the campaign against pro-reform activists and some of its own members face judicial action for speaking out against the conservative crackdown.

Many of those rounded up in Saturday's raids are former senior government officials, who served in an interim government after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The government was toppled by the Sh'ite Muslim clergy.

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Ebrahim Yazdi denounces arrests in Tehran

WASHINGTON, April 10 (AFP) - The secretary general of the Freedom Movement of Iran on Tuesday called the recent arrests of people close to the liberal opposition in Tehran "illegal." "We condemn strongly such moves by the revolutionary tribunal, (which are) based on illegal grounds," Ebrahim Yazdi told AFP in an interview from his temporary home in Houston, Texas.

Iranian law requires political trials to be held "in an open forum, with the presence of a jury, in an ordinary court," Yazdi said.

Forty-two members of the liberal opposition were arrested Saturday and placed in provisional detention on charges of trying to overthrow the regime. President Mohammad Khatami and other reformers denounced the arrests which marked a climate of increasing tension in the lead up to presidential election in June.

Yazdi said the repression by the revolutionary courts was a reaction by the right to its loss of power since the election of Khatami in 1997 and the ascension of a reformist majority in parliament last year.

Yazdi said his party would support Khatami if he decided to seek a second mandate in June.

"We, like many other reformist groups, are appealing to him to stay and run for a second term," Yazdi said. If Khatami does not run for president, the Freedom Movement and the whole reformist movement will have to regroup and define a strategy going forward, Yazdi said.

Before joining the opposition, Yazdi was minister of foreign affairs for the provisional government of prime minister Mehdi Bazargan following the Revolution of 1979.

Yazdi, who is based in Iran, came to the United States to participate in academic conferences and for medical treatment. He said he hopes to return to Iran as soon as his health permits.


SMCCDI note:

Ebrahim Yazdi and several of the arrested National-Religious, such as, Asghar Hadj Seyed Javadi are controversial persons known for their responsibilities in the victory of the Islamic revolution and the cataclysm which sized the Iranian nation.

Many Iranians remember the responsibilities of these individuals in the Council of Revolution, their roles in the executions of many Iranians and their participation in the Bazargan government till they get ousted from power by Rouh-Ollah Khomeini.

Ebrahim Yazdi is qualified by many Iranians as a Religious opportunist who tries to use his contacts, among the US officials and Lobby groups, to save the Islamic regime under the format of a more moderate regime despite the real popular aspirations.

Several Iranian groups and associations are looking to bring him to a real trial for "Genocide against the Iranian Nation".

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Several Iranian opposition members released: state media

TEHRAN, April 11 (AFP) - Several members of Iran's opposition were released Wednesday, four days after 42 liberals were arrested, state radio and television said. They did not give the liberals' names or say how many of them were set free.

Earlier Ali Mobasheri, the head of Tehran's revolutionary tribunal, said several detainees whose cases seemed to be without foundation would be freed by Thursday.

The 42 opposition figures, most of them reportedly members of the banned but until now tolerated Freedom Movement, had been rounded up Saturday on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the clerical regime.

A majority of MPs had signed a petition to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi published Wednesday criticising the arrests as "abnormal" and the conspiracy charges as "surprising."

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Iran's Reform Movement Remains Defiant Despite Mass Arrests

WEFA
April 17, 2001

Iran's judiciary, which is dominated by the hard-line opponents of the country's political reform movement, arrested at least 43 members of the Freedom Movement in the first week of April. The arrests represent a major shift in the Islamic government's attitude towards this political organization. The Freedom Movement was established in the 1950s as a nationalist movement. Because of its opposition to the Pahlavi regime and its non-violent approach, the Freedom Movement was tolerated by the Islamic regime that came to power after the Islamic revolution. It enjoyed significant political influence during the first year of the revolution when one of its leaders, Mehdi Bazargan, served as the first prime minister of Iran after the revolution. I ndeed, some of the political activists that have been arrested in recent days served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Bazargan.

The judiciary has charged the arrested individuals with conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic government. Since the Freedom Movement has been an active supporter of democracy and political reforms, most political analysts believe that the real motivation behind the recent arrests is to further weaken the reform movement and President Khatami ahead of the June presidential elections.

These arrests follow the numerous other arrests of political activists over the last three years.

If the sudden arrest of the leaders of Iran's Freedom Movement was an unexpected event, the massive criticism and opposition to these arrests is even more surprising. President Khatami and the reformist-dominated parliament have sharply criticized the judiciary for these arrests. More than 150 members of the parliament signed an open letter of protest to the head of the judiciary.

Furthermore, in a highly defiant move, the parliament summoned the intelligence minister, Ali Yunesi, to explain his ministry's involvement in these arrests. In his testimony, Mr. Yunesi, whose office is responsible for domestic security and political intelligence affairs, denied any involvement in these arrests. He further testified that the intelligence ministry had no evidence that any of the arrested individuals were involved in an attempt to overthrow the Islamic regime. This testimony has damaged the credibility of the judiciary and has prompted more protest against the arrests. In response to these growing protests, the judiciary has threatened to take action against individuals who have criticized the recent arrests.

However, it appears that the reformers are ignoring these threats and the wave of criticism is still growing. If the intention of the hard-liners was to weaken the reform movement with arrests, the initiative has clearly backfired. President Khatami and the reformists surrounding him have rallied public opinion against these arrests and in doing so have increased their popularity and legitimacy before the presidential elections.

In recent months, supporters of Khatami expressed disappointment at his inability to neutralize the growing cases of political arrests and closure of liberal newspapers. Some even accused him of selling out. His strong response to the recent arrests is expected to improve his image among the middle class and young Iranians who brought him to power in 1997. While he has not officially declared his candidacy for the June elections, he is expected to do so before the May 7 deadline.

Meanwhile, the international community has joined Iran's reform movement in condemning the arrests. The European Union, which was moving towards a gradual improvement of relations with Iran, has canceled its plan for discussing trade and economic cooperation with Iran in its April meeting of EU foreign ministers. The move, though modest, is intended to signal the EU's concern over these arrests. The United States and international human rights organizations have also expressed concern.

The growing internal and external criticism has posed a major dilemma to Iran's hard-liners. If they release these political activists in response to growing protests, it will be perceived as a major setback for them and further strengthen the reform movement. On the other hand, if they ignore the protests, the reform movement will continue to gain more popularity by showing support for the detained politicians.

A third option is to suppress internal protest by arresting even more political activists. Considering the defiant mood of the reform movement, however, this third option could lead to mass social unrest and political violence.

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Iranian students protest dissident arrests

By Ali Raiss-Tousi

TEHRAN, April 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iranian students protested on Tuesday against the recent arrests of more than 60 dissident intellectuals by hardliners dominating the judiciary. About 800 students demonstrated as speakers criticised supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for failing to rein in his judiciary allies and slammed moderate president Mohammad Khatami for not doing enough to ensure civil freedoms.

"Why is it (Khamenei) has remained silent in the wake of so much injustice?" said a speaker at the Amir Kabir University in Tehran rally. Many see the arrests of the reformers as an attempt to undermine Khatami ahead of presidential elections on June 8.

The mild-mannered cleric has been largely unable to stem the judicial onslaught on his reforms and is yet to announce whether he will stand for re-election.

Last month, agents of the Revolutionary Court raided a Tehran apartment and arrested 21 religious nationalist intellectuals, detaining them at a secret location in solitary confinement. More than 40 others were arrested two weeks ago, although 16 of them were later released on bail.

"Khatami shouldn't just verbally express concern over the arrests like ordinary citizens," said another student speaker. "As the man responsible for implementing the constitution, he should take action."

Students held posters of the prisoners, including Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, a reformist cleric sentenced to death on charges of apostasy, the abandonment of religion, in a secret court without access to a lawyer of his choice.

DISSIDENTS CHEERED

Students clapped and cheered as one speaker mentioned elderly Iranian dissident, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

The cleric, who is in his 70s, has been under house arrest since 1997 for criticising Iran's system of absolute clerical rule. His son Saeed was arrested last year and remains in custody without a trial.

Judiciary chief Mahmood Hashemi Shahroudi was also criticised for what the students said was the torture of political detainees.

"There is no hope for reforms in the judiciary while it maintains its undemocratic structure," said one speaker.

In a separate incident, outspoken student leader Heshmatollah Tabarzadi was arrested by agents of the Revolutionary Court on Monday.

Tabarzadi is secretary general of the United Student Front, which supports separation of church and state. He has spent the last few years in and out of prison because of his radical speeches and views.

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Moderate Islamists charged for Armed struggle, Tabarzadi arrested

TEHRAN 17 Apr. (IPS) Iranian reformists received Tuesday a new blow after the Head of the Leader-controlled Islamic revolution Tribunal revealed that the Islamist-nationalists and Iran Freedom Movement were engaged in overthrowing the Islamic Republic by the means of arms.

The announcement came as agents of the Tribunal were raiding the offices of the Democratic Front of the Iranian People (DFIP) and arrested the leader of the newly formed organisation Mr. Heshmatollah Tabarzadi and more than 50 people present for his weekly lecture.

On orders from Ayatollah Ali Khamenehe'i, the egocentric and fundamentalist leader if the present Iranian regime, the Judiciary arrested in the pas weeks more than sixty members of the IFM and activists affiliated to the Nationalist-religious groups, charged of activities against the security of the state and announced a total ban on all the activities if the two groups.

The arrests triggered widespread condemnation both in Iran and outside and in letters to the Head of the Judiciary, 150 reformist MMs (Members of the Majles) called on him for the release of the detainees and informing the people about the reason for the arrests.

Speaking to the leader-controlled Iranian Radio, Hojjatoleslam Ali Mobasheri, Head formally accused the detainees of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic establishment by using force, a charge that many observers immediately described as "very serious" for the fate and future of the detainees.

"We have irrefutable proof, ample documents and confessions to tell you that that the group was attempting to overthrow the regime by all means, including dividing the leaders and officials, pitting them against each other, to provoke crisies and even by taking arms", he told the state-run Radio.

In a letter to Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroodi, the Iraqi-bord Head of the leader-controlled Judiciary, 150 MM (Members of the Majles) called on him to release to detainees as soon as possible and also provide explanation for the arrests.

"The reformists were hoping that by putting pressure on the Judiciary, the only of the three powers not only under the full control of the conservatives, but that also serves as the political, police and intelligence service for Mr. Khamenehe'i, they could bring it to be more lenient and reserve a better treatment for the detainees, but the last declaration of Mr. Mobbasheri shows that they were utterly wrong", commented one Iranian columnist in Tehran.

However, He said that Mr. Mobbasheri's declarations would not satisfy the public opinion as he failed to back his revelations by convincing documents.

"The MMs who so ardently defends the irrefutable detainees and qualify them as honest revolutionaries are not aware of the documents we have and they ignore of the confessions we have obtained. Once they would be informed, they would become ashamed of their behaviour", Mr. Mobbasheri told the Radio.

"I tell you honestly, these pro-American circles are being closely watched and we are being very vigilant", he warned, and lashed out at criticism of the arrests from Iranian reformist politicians.

In reaction to the international condemnation of the arrests, the last one oming Tuesday from the French ruling Socialist Party of Prine Minister Lionel Jospin, Mr. Mobbasheri "in defending our Islamic Republic, we do not get instructions from the White House not the European Community".

Acting Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Revolutionary Guards) Brigadier-General Baqer Zolqadr welcomed the mass arrest of Islamic nationalists, saying, "the detainees were "in league with the enemy during the (1980-1988 Iraqi-imposed war)".

The Judiciary accused both the IFM and the Nationalist-religious of intelligence and co-operations with the outlawed Mujahedeen Khalq Organisation, the Baghdad-based, Iraqi supported, financed and trained group dedicated to topple the present Iranian regime by armed struggle.

"Religious-nationalist is a distorted and demagoguery title given to this group. They hold no commitment to Islam," told a group of volunteer Basijis in this central Iranian city of Esfahan.

In his view, the now-banned Freedom Movement of Iran is a brainchild of the terrorist Iraqi-based Mujahideen Khalq Organistion.

Meanwhile, special forces of the Islamic revolution tribunal carried a violent crackdown on the DFIP, arresting of several prominent students and intelectuals activists, among Mr. Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, Parviz Safari, Hassan Zare-Zadeh and Mohammad-Javad Salamati, the deputy secretary of the DFIP, after being beaten, showered with harsh words and being sprayed with Tear gas substance, eyewitnesses said.

According to the US-based Student's Co-ordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, some of the attacking militias took films and pictures from the local and the audience and warned them of future actions for having carried activities against the Islamic republic regime.

Mr. Tabarzadi has been imprisoned several times for his activities, particularly his calls for a referendum on the position, powers and mandate.

His wife told the Persian service of the BBC that agents who had their house under watch for several days did raided it when both she and her husband were absent.

"They searched everywhere and took everything they could", she confirmed.

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Iranian opposition 'plotted overthrow'

BBC World
April 17, 2001

The conservative judiciary in Iran has formally accused a group of recently detained opposition members of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The head of the Teheran revolutionary court, Ali Mobasheri, told Iranian radio that the court had "irrefutable proof" that some of those arrested had been plotting armed activities.

More than 40 liberal activists and intellectuals, most with links to the banned opposition Freedom Movement, were arrested in a series of raids in Tehran and other cities earlier this month.

In a separate move, a leading student activist, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, is reported to have been imprisoned on Tuesday.

He was convicted on a charge of acting against state security and is said to have failed to answer a summons to appear before the revolutionary court.

Plotting charges

There are reports that other student leaders have also been detained, to face accusations of plotting to overthrow the religious leadership, but these have not been confirmed.

The opposition arrests have provoked wide condemnation in Iran and abroad.

The reformist President Mohammad Khatami criticised them and 150 members of parliament called on the judicial authorities to stop their "illegal actions."

But on Tuesday, Mr Mobasheri said the reformist politicians would be ashamed of their comments when the court disclosed confessions obtained from the detainees.

He told Iranian radio that the court made the arrests based on conclusive evidence and documentation.

Reacting to the international reaction to the arrests, Mr Mobasheri said he did not need the permission of the European Union or Washington to defend the Islamic system in Iran.

Reformists in Iran have condemned the arrests as part of a campaign to discredit President Khatami ahead of the presidential elections in June.

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Senior military official says detained nationalists "enemy"

BBC Monitoring Service
Apr 18, 2001

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA

Esfahan, Esfahan Province, 17 April: A senior Iranian military chief on Tuesday [17 April] welcomed the mass arrest of Islamic nationalists on charge of conspiracy against the regime, saying: "The detainees were in league with the enemy during the (1980-1988 Iraqi-imposed war)".

"Religious-nationalist is a distorted and demagoguery title given to this group. They hold no commitment to Islam," Acting Commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Brigadier-General Baqer Zolqadr told a group of volunteer Basijis in this central Iranian city.

He said that the so-called affiliates of the religious-nationalist alliance aim to deviate the youths from the right path through what he called "their wrong interpretation of the (Muslim holy book) of Koran".

He noted that the now-banned Freedom Movement of Iran is a brainchild of the terrorist Iraqi-based Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization which seeks to topple the Islamic government through subversive acts.

Zolqadr took a sharp swipe at top officials and MPs for their condemnation of the arrest, saying: "While the leaders of the banned grouplet admit they seek to topple the Islamic regime, support voiced by officials and MPs is regretted."

It was a snipe at President Mohammad Khatami and 150 reformist MPs who condemned the arrests of 42 dissidents.

Reformists have denounced the arrests as a final offensive against President Mohammad Khatami's supporters before the 8th June presidential polls with the aim of getting Khatami not to seek a second four-year term in office.

In the latest reaction, over 150 Iranian MPs protested last Wednesday against the treatment of dozens of detained dissidents, saying they were held in unknown locations and denied access to lawyers.

Last month, agents of the Revolution Court raided a Tehran apartment and arrested 21 religious nationalist intellectuals, detaining them at a secret location in solitary confinement. More than 40 others, mostly linked to FMI, were arrested two weeks ago, although 17 of them were later released on bail.

Head of Tehran's Revolution Court has formally accused the detainees of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

Ali Mobasheri told the national radio that there was "irrefutable provoke crises", a charge amounting to muharaba (waging war against Islam and Islamic state) which carries death penalty under Iran's Islamic penal code.

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Iranian teachers warn against arrests

By MODHER AMIN

TEHRAN, Iran, April 25 (UPI) -- In a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, some 109 Iranian university professors warned that the recent arrests of liberal opposition figures, including 20 colleagues, may speed up the country's "brain drain," a thorny issue Iran is grappling with, news reports said on Wednesday.

The professors say the lack of teachers is hurting the education system.

The petition, carried by Tehran-based reformist papers, comes in response to the mass arrests earlier this month of more than 40 Islamic nationalists, mostly linked to the banned Freedom Movement of Iran, on charges of attempts to overthrow the Islamic regime.

"We fear that the detention (of university personalities) may accelerate the trend of "brain drain" and deprive our developing society of necessary assets," said the letter whose writers were anonymous.

Calling on Khatami to defend their colleagues, the signatories also complained that several weeks after the mass arrests, "the judiciary has not yet offered enough evidence to convince the public opinion."

On Friday, Iran's judiciary, dominated by hard-liners, accused the detainees of having contacts with exiled rebel groups and the West, particularly the United States.

Besides subversion charges, the revolutionary courts said that the arrested had even planned armed rebellion in their attempts to topple the Islamic establishment.

Reformists see the arrests as a move by conservatives to silence them, and embarrass Khatami, before presidential elections on June 8. The reformist president has yet to announce whether he will seek a second term.

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Court says dissident confessed to subversion, his leader had firearms

TEHRAN, Iran (AP)Apr. 28 - Firearms were found in the house of a dissident leader whose supporters were detained earlier this month, an Iranian revolutionary court said Saturday. One of the 42 detained members of the Freedom Movement, a group of intellectuals advocating reform, has confessed to subversion, the Tehran court said in a statement read on state-run television and radio.

The court said the unidentified detainee told his interrogators: "We were trying to overthrow the establishment in some ways. One of them was to create a big gap between the establishment and the people. Also we were trying to show that the current system is incompetent."

Their detention earlier this month, condemned in Iran and abroad, was seen as part of the power struggle between hard-liners and reformists.

President Mohammad Khatami criticized the arrests, and 150 members of parliament called on the hard-line judiciary to stop its "illegal actions."

The court did not name the group's leader but said he was in the United States. The head of the Freedom Movement, Ebrahim Yazdi, has been receiving medical treatment in Houston.

Yazdi previously told The Associated Press the detentions were part of a campaign by hard-liners to discourage Khatami from seeking re-election in June.

Khatami has championed greater social and political freedom, moves that conservatives view as undermining the 1979 Islamic revolution.

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Khamenei defends arrest of nationalists

The Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Tehran

May 1 2001 19:31GMT

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, on Tuesday attacked the country's reformist-dominated parliament for challenging the judiciary over its arrest of more than 60 nationalists alleged to be plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime.

In his first public statement since the arrests began six weeks ago, Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted by state television as saying in a speech in northern Iran that parliament did not understand the reasons behind the judiciary's moves. The supreme leader expressed his "dissatisfaction", the report said.

It was not the first time Ayatollah Khamenei had intervened against the outspoken legislature. Last August he told parliament to drop moves to change a media law passed by the previous conservative-dominated assembly.

The arrests of the nationalists, including members of the banned Freedom Movement that opposes absolute clerical rule, were also criticised by Mohammad Khatami, the moderate president. Reformists see the arrests as part of a campaign to weaken Mr Khatami before next month's presidential election.

Ayatollah Khamenei called for a "healthy" election atmosphere and a high turnout. He said the "enemy", usually a reference to the US and Israel, wanted a low turnout and might prefer one candidate to another.

Close supporters of the president said they expect him to end months of uncertainty by declaring his candidacy for re-election. Mr Khatami, who defeated the candidate of the conservative establishment with nearly 70 per cent of the vote in 1997, has been under pressure from hardline opponents not to seek a second term.

About 10 known figures have already announced their intention to run but the conservative camp, a loose coalition that shows signs of fracturing, has not yet declared its candidate.

Analysts said the supreme leader was under pressure from ultra-conservative clerics to curb the pro-reform movement but that the rift, which some clerics warn jeopardises the survival of the regime, would continue to dominate the presidential election.

Ali Fallahian, a former intelligence minister and powerful figure among hardline clerics, has already stepped forward but without the backing of leading parties. His son, Mohsen, who acts as his father's bodyguard, was arrested last week after killing a policeman. He says he acted in self-defence.

Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a pro-reform Tehran city councillor and former student radical who took part in seizing the US embassy in 1979, has also said he will run.

All must first be approved by the Guardian Council, a conservative body that vets candidates for their religious and revolutionary credentials, supervises the elections and ratifies the results. The council has already disqualified 145 would-be candidates who registered to run for parliamentary by-elections for 16 seats, also to be held next month.

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Iran arrests another liberal opposition member

TEHRAN, May 9 (AFP) - The son-in-law of former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan, who headed the provisional government set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution, has been arrested, a press report said Wednesday. Mohsen Mohaqeqi, a member of Iran's liberal opposition movement, was taken into custody Tuesday, while Bazargan's son, Mohammad Navid, has also been summoned by a Tehran court, the reformist Hambastigi said.

It said officials also searched house of Amir Khoram, another liberal opposition figure.

Tehran's revolutionary court launched a crackdown last month on the Iran Freedom Movement (IFM), which was founded by Mehdi Bazargan, arresting 42 people linked the group on charges of plotting to overthrow the clerical regime.

Several have since been released on bail, according to the press and unofficial sources. The IFM, which had been tolerated despite being under a longtime ban, has effectively been closed down since March.

IFM head Ibrahim Yazdi, who is currently in the United States, is being prosecuted by the courts on charges of "actions aginst the internal security of the state."

The crackdown on the group has unfolded in the run-up to the June 8 presidential election, for which reformist President Mohammad Khatami last week announced he would stand for re-election.

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