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Judiciary issues warning against moderate press

TEHRAN, Sep 2 (AFP) - Iran's conservative-dominated judiciary on Thursday issued a warning against any attempts by the moderate press to breach the pillars of the Islamic revolution.

In a statement broadcast on radio, the judiciary vigorously backed Wednesday's remarks by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said "apostate" journalists opposing the country's eye-for-an-eye laws were liable to the death penalty.

"The judiciary acts in conformity with Islamic rules and takes the right to combat those who offend the Islamic revolution's foundations via articles and newspapers," it said.

In an article published on Monday, the Neshat paper said that the "penalty of death by hanging or vengeance laws are not solutions to murders and corruption on earth."

Several conservative MPs on Thursday accused the moderate press of generating offences against Islam and called on the government to take up its responsibilities.

Hamid-Reza Taraqi, a conservative MP from the holy northeastern city of Mashhad, blamed reformist Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani's "laxness" for the attacks against the basic ideological foundations of Islam, the conservative Kayhan paper reported.

The paper also published a petition by several religious instructors and seminarists from the holy central Iranian city of Qom, home to the country's leading Shiite clergy, calling for the closure of Neshat.

On Tuesday the association of Koranic teachers from Qom called on political leaders to "put an end to this anti-Islamic campaign" in the pages of the moderate press.

But Neshat's management apologized to its readership Thursday reassuring them that they had no intentions of offending or questioning the backbone of Islam while insisting on their innocence.

Papers and writers have been strictly forbidden since the 1979 Islamic revolution from questioning the "ideological basis" of Islam and its sharia laws which are largely the basis of civil and criminal law in Iran.

The new legal system introduced in 1996 prescribes the death penalty for spying, taking up arms against state security forces and drug trafficking. In the case of murder, the family of the victim can demand the vengeance law, which has been in force since the revolution.

Iran's conservative press and hardliners in the government been calling on the regime all week to "unravel" what they call a "cultural plot in the newspaper columns" of Neshat and Khordad, the two main press supporters of President Mohammad Khatami.

During the past year, the conservative judiciary has waged a massive crackdown on moderate newspapers, closing at least three pro-Khatami papers and arresting or interrogating dozens of journalists.

The judiciary, which works independently from the country's Justice ministry, coordinates relations between the government, the judiciary itself and Iran's magistrates.

In early August, Khamenei appointed Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shaharudi as the new judiciary chief who vowed to follow up on Khatami's calls for a thorough reform of the nation's courts.


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