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Paper publishes banned photo of leading dissident

TEHRAN, Aug 28 (AFP) - An Iranian newspaper close to nationalist circles published a front-page picture on Saturday of a dissident cleric once in line to be Iran 's supreme leader but now forbidden to be mentioned in the press.

The Iran Vij paper featured a photo of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, whose fierce criticisms of the regime have left him under house arrest for the last 10 years.

"Does the house arrest of Ayatollah Montazeri conform to Islamic law?" the paper asked in its daring front-page article, echoing the calls of his supporters for an end to his confinement.

The 78-year-old Montazeri was once due to succeed the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as supreme leader but was pushed aside in March 1989 after accusations his residence was a "nest of plotters" against the regime.

Current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took over instead when the Islamic republic's founder died in June 1989 and the regime ordered Montazeri placed under house arrest.

He has remained a leading dissident figure who two years ago angered

conservatives anew by condemning their hold over the nation's politics and calling for greater power to be given to reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The comments sparked nationwide demonstrations and led to the closure of his office in the northeastern city of Mashhad and the sacking of his office at the Koranic school in the holy city of Qom.

Mehdi Hashemi, the brother of Montazeri's son-in-law and a well- known member of Iran 's elite Revolutionary Guards, was executed in 1987 after being accused of plotting against the government and belonging to the Savak, thk2gret police of the former imperial regime.

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