Iranian cleric's trial latest skirmish in reformist-conservative
TEHRAN, April 15 (AFP) - The trial of a liberal Iranian cleric accused
of spreading propoganda hostile to the Islamic regime is the latest skirmish
in the long-running war between the country's conservative and moderate
The trial, which opened Wednesday, comes amid a new and fierce offensive
launched by the powerful conservative faction against supporters of reformist
President Mohammad Khatami and moderate Iranian newspapers.
Khatami on Thursday insisted that freedom of thought and expression
was "a must" for society, even as supreme guide Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei warned against "the enemies inside" whom he said were
more dangerous than those abroad.
Mohsen Kadivar, considered a leading lights of the reform movement
in Iran, vigorously rejected Wednesday charges laid against him by a special
court for the clergy that he was an "enemy of the state" for
spreading propaganda .
The Iranian press published long accounts of the hearing Thursday,
with several commenting on its "semi-public" nature as, in a
rare sign of openness, members of Kadivar's family and several journalists
were allowed in court.
The tribunal was created in 1985 by the late revolutionary leader
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to try members of the Shiite Moslem clergy
-- a bastion of conservatism -- and usually proceedings are conducted
behind closed doors.
Kadivar, a cleric and university professor opposed to the religious
hardliners who control Iran's police and judiciary, has written a number
of articles calling for Iran's political life to have more autonomy from
religion. But on Wednesday he rejected the accusations against him
and charged that his trial was unconstitutional and the court incompetent
to try his case.
"I outright reject the baseless charge that I have disseminated
false propaganda and stirred the public against the state," he
said. "Investigation into political and press offenses must be
carried out in the presence of a jury and by a qualified court of the
judiciary. The special court for clergy is not a part of the judiciary."
His lawyer, the leftist Ayatollah Hossein Mussavi Tabrizi, told the
court that the writing of an article "should not be confused with
a propaganda campaign."
Kadivar has been seen as a "political prisoner" since the
court ordered his detention in March in a case that sparked demonstrations
nationwide. His trial opened only days after the closure of moderate
newspaper Zan for publishing a message from former empress Farah Diba,
wife of the ousted shah, to mark the Iranian new year.
Kadivar's case is also the second in a year that has cast the spotlight
on the deep divisions in the regime, following the trial of former Tehran
mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who was convicted last year of corruption.
However Kadivar's trial -- unlike Karbaschi's -- is not being broadcast
on radio or television, lessening the intensity of its effect.
Karbaschi's trial also lasted for several months, while the Kadivar
case looks set to end shortly after the judge promised to issue a verdict