Iran reformer opens defence in clerical court
By Ali Raiss-Tousi
TEHRAN, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Outspoken Iranian reformist Abdollah Nouri
on Monday opened his defence against charges of political and religious
dissent that are expected to derail his campaign to become speaker of parliament.
(Related photos: here)
Nouri sat silently in the Tehran Special Court for Clergy as his lawyer,
fellow cleric Mohsen Rahami, challenged libel charges presented by the
chief of Iran's security police and the publisher of an obscure weekly
Nouri had earlier admonished the hardline judge and prosecutor for
using uncouth language against him when he questioned the court's legality
and the powers of Iran's supreme leader to create extra-legal tribunals.
``I ask the judge and prosecutor to refrain from using insulting language
in order to save their own respectability,'' Nouri said.
``I fear no court hearing except God's own decision on Judgment Day.''
SPECIAL COURT UNDER ATTACK
The Special Court for Clergy, which is trying Nouri for religious and
political dissent, stands outside Iran's constitution and is independent
of the country's judicial apparatus.
Its judges and prosecutor, all hardliners appointed by supreme leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are accountable only to him.
Reformers close to moderate President Mohammad Khatami have likened
the clerical court to the inquisition tribunals in Europe several centuries
However, a defence motion challenging the court as ``illegal'' was
rejected for a second time on Monday. A third hearing has been set for
Charges levied against Nouri, a former vice-president, include using
his daily Khordad newspaper to defame late revolutionary leader Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini and promoting restoration of ties with Iran's arch-foe
the United States.
SUPPORT FOR LEADING DISSIDENT
He is also charges with providing political support for the country's
leading dissident theologian, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, under
house arrest since 1997 for challenging the system of absolute religious
The reformist camp has decried the charges as an attempt to bar Nouri,
a close ally of the president, from leading their faction in parliamentary
polls set for February 18, 2000. A conviction would effectively bar him
from the ballot.
Nouri was widely tipped to lead a serious bid by reform forces to capture
parliament. Such a victory would have given him the post of speaker of
However, a series of legal and legislative setbacks have clouded the
reformists' prospects of unseating the conservative majority in parliament.