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Arrest warrant issued for reformist Iranian cleric

TEHRAN, April 25 (Reuters) - Iran's hardline clerical court has issued an arrest warrant for an outspoken cleric who took part in a seminar in Berlin on the reform movement, the official IRNA news agency said on Tuesday.

It quoted prosecutor Mohammad Ebrahim Nekounam of the Special Court for Clergy as saying Hasan Yousefi-Ashkevari would be arrested on his return to Iran.

Charges included acting against state interests, propaganda against the Islamic system, insulting the faith and acting contrary to the status of the clergy, Nekounam said.

``According to reports we have received, the suspect has not returned to Iran after taking part in the Berlin conference,'' he said. ``Judicial action will be taken against him as soon as returns from Germany.''

A prominent reformist ally, however, said Yousefi-Ashkevari's only crime was upholding legitimate freedom.

``They are taking this action against him because of his support for freedom,'' journalist Ahmad Zeidabodi told students at a Tehran University rally in support of banned reformist newspapers.

The Berlin conference, which was disrupted by exiles opposed to Iran's Islamic system, outraged conservatives, who said the Iranian delegation failed to properly defend the system and the faith.

Other participants have been summoned to the Revolutionary Court for interrogation and may also face prosecution.


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