Momentum builds to free Abdollah Nouri
TEHRAN, June 7 (Reuters) - Supporters of the jailed Iranian cleric Abdollah
Nouri said on Wednesday that hopes for his release were improving after
the head of the new parliament offered to help free him.
Associates of Nouri, who was taken from prison earlier this week to
hospital for treatment of a slipped disc, said that the parliamentary speaker
Mehdi Karroubi had agreed to seek the reformist cleric's freedom.
``Mr Nouri has refused to accept a pardon, but the atmosphere is improving
day by day for a successful appeal,'' one Nouri confidant told Reuters.
Last autumn the Special Court for Clergy sentenced Nouri, once tipped
to lead the new parliament, to five years in prison for religious and political
dissent, and banned his outspoken newspaper Khordad.
The diminutive cleric, a great favourite on university campuses, had
refused to request a pardon from Iran's supreme leader, saying that smacked
of an admission of guilt.
However, his friends and associates say they believe he is prepared
to accept a ruling by the court overturning his conviction or reducing
The chances of such an outcome were boosted when Karroubi, like Nouri
a mid-level Shi'ite Moslem cleric, agreed on Tuesday to champion his cause.
The daily newspaper Hamshahri, whose former publisher is close to the
Nouri camp, quoted Karroubi as saying he would take up the matter with
supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who directly controls the clerical
``We expect, God willing, that he will be released soon ... I take it
upon myself to do everything necessary in this regard, and if need be,
I will personally go to see the leader,'' Karroubi told the newspaper after
visiting Nouri's bedside.
Friends, meanwhile, say the cleric was initially barred by the head
of the clerical court from having any contacts while in hospital.
But the judge later signed an order allowing Nouri, a former vice president,
to speak with four top officials, including close ally President Mohammad
Khatami and the new speaker, Karroubi.