Opposition leader calls for Khamenei's distance from
TEHRAN, Aug 31 (AFP) - An Iranian opposition leader issued an unprecedented
open letter Tuesday challenging the authority of Iran's supreme leader
and saying he should distance himself from the regime's conservatives.
Yadollah Sahabi, a 95-year-old co-founder of the opposition Iran Liberation
Movement (ILM), said the public perception that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
is linked to rightist factions risked the survival of the Islamic republic.
"It is not in the country's best interests that the public considers
the leader as a partisan defender of a political faction opposed to the
government" of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Sahabi said.
"His direct or indirect favouring of just one faction ... harms
his stature as an independent leader and even threatens the survival of
the regime," Sahabi wrote in the letter, a copy of which was received
Sahabi hailed Khamenei's declaration of support for Khatami in July
after six days of bloody riots shook the nation but said the leader needed
to act "before it becomes too late and the door to reforms is closed
He urged Khamenei to make a "totally clear" statement about
the unrest, which erupted after police attacked university protesters,
and echoed student calls for security forces to be removed from his control.
"Placing the police under the authority of the supreme leader in
1989 was a mistake ... and the best way of correcting it is to put them
back under the control of the government," he said.
The supreme leader is the traditional guardian of Iran's Islamic revolutionary
orthodoxy and under Iranian law his authority is not permitted to be questioned.
Conservatives and hardliners, often stiff opponents of Khatami's social
and political reforms, consider themselves the true defenders of the constitutional
principle of the supreme leader's authority in Iran.
Sahabi's ILM in early August accused security forces of trying to "wipe
out the student movement in Iran" in a "campaign of terror"
after more than 1,500 people were arrested in the wake of the unrest.
In a letter to Khatami the party, which is officially banned but tolerated
by authorities, charged that students who were later released by police
had said their interrogations had focussed on their possible links with
Police attacked a dormitory at Tehran university during a student protest
following the closure of a popular reformist daily, the third major pro-Khatami
paper banned by the conservative-dominated judiciary this year.
The attack set off the worst unrest here since the aftermath of the
1979 Islamic revolution, with six days of violence that left three people
dead and three others wounded, according to official figures.
But students and moderate newspapers said at least five people were
killed and dozens wounded, many of whom they said were later abducted from
Tehran hospitals by the secret police.
The unrest also spread to the provincial capital of Tabriz, where students
said security forces opened fire on a student sit-in, leaving 15 people
with gunshot wounds, including three women.
Some 80 others were injured after being beaten with clubs and chains,