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Iran's top court limits seizure of 'illicit' items

TEHRAN, April 3 (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Court has barred the security forces from seizing illicit materials from private homes, newspapers reported on Monday.

Possession of ``illicit'' materials such as pictures, cassettes and videotapes is not in itself a crime, according to the ruling issued on Sunday, the daily Asr-e Azadegan said.

But distribution and trade in such materials will be punishable by law.

The ruling effectively makes private homes immune to raids by the security forces in search of illicit tapes and CD's of Iranian and Western pop music and videotapes of the latest Hollywood releases -- very popular in Iran despite a ban.

The reformist Bamdad-e No daily quoted the court decision as saying: ``Possession of...any materials which conflicts with public decency is a criminal offence if such possession is for the purposes of trade and distribution.''

But lawyers said the ruling was a technical one and did not imply judicial endorsement of President Mohammad Khatami's cultural liberalisation.

``This was just a statement of the law as it stands, it has nothing to do with the judiciary loosening up to notions of Khatami's civil society,'' Ali Khosravi, a private attorney, told Reuters.

``There have been no changes in the law. The courts had issued conflicting judgements in the past, but now they are obliged to comply with this ruling,'' he said.


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