The Iranian


email us

Fly to Iran

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

    News & views

Top Iranian Reformer Shot And Wounded

By Jonathan Lyons

March 12, TEHRAN (Reuters) - Saeed Hajjarian, an architect of Iran's reform movement, was shot and seriously wounded on Sunday by attackers who fled on a motorcycle, witnesses said.

They said Hajjarian, a former deputy intelligence minister and a close aide to President Mohammad Khatami, had been hit in the face from a distance of less than three meters (yards).

``The gunman had aimed his gun at Hajjarian's temple but because his hand was shaking the (first) bullet struck him in the face,'' Mahmoud Alizadeh-Tabatabaei, a colleague of Hajjarian on Tehran city council, told the state news agency IRNA.

IRNA said Hajjarian, also a pro-reform newspaper editor, was in the intensive care unit at a nearby hospital suffering from a swelling of the brain and respiratory problems.

President Condemns Shooting

President Khatami condemned the shooting and ordered authorities to hunt the unknown gunmen. ``The enemies of freedom wrongly believe they can attain their goals by assassinating a pious intellectual who was serving the nation,'' he said.

A presidential adviser said security forces had been put on full alert in Tehran.

State media said Hajjarian had emerged from a coma and was able to breath without the aid of a ventilator.

But a doctor treating Hajjarian told state radio: ``Because his breathing was disrupted from the shooting to the arrival at the hospital, the brain has suffered some ischaemia (reduced blood supply) and therefore he remains in a coma.''

Doctors said earlier a brain scan showed no direct damage to the brain or spinal cord.

``One bullet entered through his left cheek and remains lodged at the back of his neck,'' said Mohammad Reza Zafarqandi, head of the emergency team.

Iran's top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, was to meet to discuss the incident. A special operations center was set up to monitor events.

It was not clear whether the president, who chairs the council, would cut short a trip to his native Yazd province to attend the meeting.

Attack Followed Written Threats

The attack followed what associates said were a number of written threats in recent weeks on Hajjarian's life by hard-liners, some of whom have been linked to the serial murders of dissident intellectuals.

``He was threatened by many people, including those who killed the intellectuals,'' said one colleague.

Reformers rallied around the stricken Hajjarian, with a delegation of newly-elected members of parliament and President Khatami's chief of staff rushing to his bedside.

``I think this marks an unhappy start for the new phase of political life in Iran. I am worried for the future,'' said economist and pro-reform editor Saeed Leylaz.

Witnesses told Reuters the two assailants had been cruising nearby on a 1000 cc motorcycle. This size of machine, once popular as getaway vehicles in political killings, is outlawed in Iran except for use by police and security personnel.

That has fed fears among reformers that the attempt on Hajjarian could be linked to Iran's intense factional struggle, pitting moderates against the conservative establishment.

Mehdi Qasemi, a university student who was outside the city council building at the time, said the gunman on the back of the motorbike fired twice from no more than three meters (yards).

Other witnesses said the gunman, wearing a helmet, had approached Hajjarian and shot him with a Colt revolver.

IRNA said the attack had taken place at 8.35 a.m. (0505 GMT) in central Tehran. It said witnesses had provided the police with descriptions of the attackers and their motorcycle.

People at the scene of the shooting said the city council's armed police apparently made no attempt to chase the gunmen. That is sure to feed reformers' suspicions over the incident.

Hajjarian was one of the masterminds of the reformists' big victory in last month's parliamentary polls, and there was widespread speculation that he would soon step down as editor of the Sobh-e Emrouz daily to begin full-time political work.

His newspaper has been in the forefront of the pro-reform movement, aggressively exposing what it says is a hard-line circle within the Intelligence Ministry involved in the murders of dissidents dating back many years.

 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.