Head of banned Iranian paper to stand trial next week
TEHRAN, Sept 13 (AFP) - The trial of the director of Iran's Neshat newspaper,
banned for publishing "anti-Islamic" articles, will begin in
the press court next week, justice officials said Monday.
Latif Safari will appear next Monday to answer 73 charges in a public
trial in the presence of a jury, Iran's justice department said in a statement
carried by the official IRNA news agency.
Neshat, which is close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, fell
foul of Iran's conservative-controlled judiciary after publishing two controversial
articles earlier this month.
In the first article the paper called for an end to the death penalty
and Iran's strict "eye-for-an-eye" law of retribution.
It also published an unprecedented open letter from an opposition leader
questioning the authority of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
an illegal act under Iranian law.
Khamenei had made the paper's closure virtually inevitable after decreeing
that journalists who opposed the retribution law were "apostates"
who themselves were liable to be put to death.
Iran's moderate Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani said the closure
of the paper was not legally justified while the paper's editors said the
ban was a "political coup" to muzzle the pro-reform press ahead
of next spring's parliamentary elections.
The July closure of Salam, another reformist daily, set off student
protests that erupted in six days of bloody riots after demonstrators were
attacked by security forces and Islamic hardliners.