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Iran court seeks custody of shooting suspects

TEHRAN, April 3 (Reuters) - A top Iranian court official called on the secret police on Monday to hand over suspects held for the shooting of a top reformer, to prevent possible mistreatment during questioning, Iran's news agency IRNA said.

``To prevent any conceivable punishment, threats, pressure, or injury to the accused, it is necessary that they be turned over to the justice ministry's department in that interrogations are carried out under the supervision of a judge,'' IRNA quoted department head Abbasali Alizadeh as saying.

In a letter to the powerful intelligence ministry, Alizadeh also said any new arrests should be ordered by the judge probing last month's assassination attempt on Saeed Hajjarian, a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami.

Meanwhile, a judiciary spokesman said hearings in the case could begin within two weeks, adding that it would be handled by the revolutionary courts because of its national security character, state television reported.

The hardline revolutionary courts were set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to deal with security and political offences.

The intelligence ministry gave more details about the eight accused, saying in a statement quoted by IRNA that the suspected driver of the motorcycle used in the attack was a low-ranking member of the Revolutionary Guards, while the man who allegedly supplied the pistol had a criminal record.

Reformers have suggested that the suspects may have ties to hardliners within the security forces waging a campaign to undermine the liberal reforms of President Mohammad Khatami.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said last month the accused were ``extremist elements,'' but added that they had acted on unspecified private motives.

Officials have said the man arrested for allegedly shooting Hajjarian is a student.

Hajjarian's doctors said the 47-year-old Tehran city council member, who is in intensive care with a bullet lodged in his neck, had to be put on a respirator again on Monday, IRNA reported.


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