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Moderate Iran Newspaper Confiscated

By Afshin Valinejad
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 1999;

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Authorities confiscated copies of an Iranian newspaper Wednesday after the daily defied a ban imposed for printing a cartoon deemed insulting to Islam, its editor said.

Court officials, citing the cartoon as well as a letter the paper published from Iran's former empress, Farah Diba, said the moderate Zan newspaper will be banned from publishing until after the case goes to court. A trial date was not released.

Editors at Zan, which means ``woman,'' had tried to publish despite the ban, but Zan editor Faraj Balafkan said Wednesday the pages were confiscated.

The ban is part of a crackdown on several liberal newspapers by hard-liners in the judiciary and represents moves by the conservative clergy to thwart President Mohammad Khatami's efforts to open up Iranian society by allowing a free press.

``The hard-liners have started a war against Mr. Khatami's supporters and I expect them to target other papers as well,'' Balafkan said.

The paper printed a cartoon Tuesday showing a thug being asked to kill a woman rather than a man, because under Islamic law a woman's ``blood money'' is half that of a man's.

Blood money is compensation that must be paid to the family of a victim who is murdered or killed in an accident.

Gholamhossein Rahbarpour, head of Iran's Revolutionary Courts, said the paper had insulted Islam because the cartoon ridiculed blood money -- ``one of the main judicial and religious principles of Islam,'' the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

He also said the mere publication of the former empress's greetings on the Iranian New Year was ``a blatant anti-revolutionary act.''

Zan identified Farah Diba, the widow of the shah who was ousted during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, only by her name. Iranian newspapers generally add insulting epithets when they refer to the shah or his relatives.

The former empress lives in the United States and France.

Rahbarpour said Wednesday the ban would remain in force until the paper's owner, Faezeh Hashemi, is brought to court.

Hashemi, a member of Parliament and the daughter of moderate former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, is a top advocate for women's rights. Zan is a staunch supporter of Khatami.

Zan was banned for two weeks late last year for publishing articles accusing a police chief of being involved in an attack on a minister and a former minister.

Since Khatami's election in May 1997, the hard-liners have suffered several political blows, the latest when moderates swept the polls in February's municipal local elections.


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