Khatami urged to settle Iran police-judiciary row
TEHRAN, April 6 (Reuters) - The head of Iran's secret police urged President
Mohammad Khatami to intervene to settle a row with the judiciary over the
custody of suspects held for shooting a top reformer.
Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi accused the judiciary of cutting short
a high-profile inquiry by his services into last month's murder attempt
against Saeed Hajjarian, a close ally of Khatami, by demanding custody
of the suspects.
``Despite earlier agreements, the suspects and the shooting case were
taken away from the intelligence ministry, and we could not fulfil our
legal duties,'' he said in a letter to the president published in newspapers
``We request that you, who are tasked with overseeing the constitution,
set up a team to investigate the issue.''
The intelligence ministry handed over the suspects this week after a
direct public request by Tehran's top judge for his courts to take custody
of the prisoners.
Judge Abbasali Alizadeh said the move was to protect the suspects, all
Islamic extremists, suggesting that at least one of them had been tortured
But Yunesi said the charges were ``incorrect and surprising,'' adding
that they had ``disturbed public opinion.''
Last month, Khatami ordered the intelligence ministry to root out political
violence, widely believed to be waged by Islamic hardliners to undermine
his liberal reforms.
Reformers, whose influence is growing in the secret police, say Hajjarian's
shooting may be part of a wider scheme by hardliners within the clerical
establishment and the elite Revolutionary Guards to destabilise Khatami's
At least one of the suspects is a member of the Revolutionary Guards,
and the elite force made the arrests. But the Guards have denied any role
in the shooting, which left Hajjarian hospitalised in critical condition.
Reformers fear that a quick trial of the suspects may spoil the opportunity
to shed light on the roots of the violence. Some have suggested there might
be political motives behind the judiciary's move to take quick custody
of the suspects.
The judiciary is independent of the Khatami government and remains in
Islamic conservative hands despite a recent reshuffle in its top echelon.
On Thursday, the judiciary defended its move to take custody of the prisoners.
``It is up to the judge to decide whether the investigation is complete
or not. The judiciary makes the ultimate decision,'' judiciary spokesman
Hossein Sadeqi told state television.
``The prisoners cannot be kept in a place which is not trusted by the
judge and the judiciary.''
Judge Alizadeh had earlier said his courts would allow the intelligence
ministry to complete its investigation under the court's supervision. ``There
are no obstacles. They can interrogate the suspects whenever they like...,''