Hardline Iranian court ends hearings, Nouri defiant
By Ali Raiss-Tousi
TEHRAN, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Iran's hardline Special Court for Clergy
on Wednesday wound up hearings in the trial of leading reformist cleric
Abdollah Nouri, charged with political and religious dissent. (Related
The court gave Nouri, a former vice-president, eight days to submit
his final written defence. A verdict from the panel of conservative clerics
is due within a week after that. Nouri has already predicted he will be
The sixth and final day of hearings focused on Nouri's outspoken and
popular newspaper Khordad and its alleged insult against Islamic sanctities
in an article on the ``hejab,'' or Islamic dess code for women.
``You cannot enforce the 'hejab' with clubs and batons,'' said Nouri,
in defiance of the prosecutor who had accused him of maliciously insulting
``You cannot claim religion is limited to your own particular understanding
of it,'' said Nouri, a leading ally of moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
In another closely watched case, journalists gathered in support of
outspoken editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, on trial in another court for
alleged forgery and insulting Islam.
More than 100 supporters met at the offices of Shamsolvaezin's Asr-e
Azadegan daily to denounce what they called a conservative campaign against
the press that has seen five major pro-reform newspapers closed in less
than two years.
Shamsolvaezin remains in jail, pending a third hearing on Saturday
before a hardline-led special press court.
Nouri was repeatedly interrupted at the trial by the judge and the
prosecutor, in an apparent effort to cut short his sharp criticism of the
conservative clerical establishment, which has been widely covered by reformist
The most sensitive part of the trial, relating to Nouri's alleged political
backing for dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, was a bitter
dispute between Nouri and the court, which barred him from reading his
Montazeri has been under house arrest since 1997.
PROSECUTION DEMANDS PRESS COVERAGE
The prosecutor also demanded that the flourishing reformist press publicise
his legal arguments and those of the judge, accusing them of only focusing
on Nouri's statements.
``The prosecutor's interjections are political and not legal,'' a reformist
editor at the court told Reuters. ``And they are being published anyway.
He just wants first page coverage.''
Charges against Nouri, who has likened his trial to the Inquisition,
accuse him of advocating the restoration of ties with Iran's arch-foe the
United States, questioning Islamic doctrines, and insulting the late revolutionary
leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Reformers say the charges are an attempt by the conservative establishment
to bar Nouri from February's parliamentary elections, in which he was expected
to top the moderate ticket.
A conviction could also mean a lengthy prison sentence and the closure
of the outspoken Khordad newspaper.