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Author Topic:   Iran holds hardliner for attack on comedy show
posted August 03, 2001 09:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
TEHRAN, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Iranian police have arrested a leader of an Islamic extremist group after militants disrupted a comedy show they deemed un-Islamic, a judge said on Wednesday. Hamid Ostad of the Ansar-e Hezbollah group was taken into custody over last Friday's assault in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, the judge told Iran's student news agency ISNA.

He said police were still seeking 30 other group members for storming the auditorium where the show was to be staged and clashing with police.

The Ansar have waged a violent crusade against symbols of "decadent" Western culture in the Islamic republic, attacking movie theatres and concerts and beating up the audience.

Fiercely opposed to President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms, they have also disrupted reformist political rallies and roughed up liberal politicians and intellectuals.

Police and the judiciary, dominated by hardliners, have rarely arrested or convicted any of the group's members, prompting speculation that the group enjoys support among powerful conservatives.

"This group knows no limits and they do everything they like. We will take action against any destructive groups," the judge said.

But he defended the group for a recent attack on a reformist rally in Mashhad to celebrate Khatami's re-election in May.

"We cannot stand by and watch them (reformers) sing and dance and blame Ansar for objecting," he said. "Those who organise such celebrations are more guilty than those attacking them."

Mashhad, home to a major Shi'ite Muslim shrine, has a more restrictive climate than other cities in Iran. The organisers of the show had obtained authorisation from a series of hardline revolutionary institutions.

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