Brother of Iran's supreme leader assaulted as political
TEHRAN, Feb 13 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called Saturday
for an investigation into the assault of one of his advisers, the brother
of supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, amid an escalation
of political violence in the Islamic republic.
Khatami directed the intelligence and interior ministries to launch
an investigation into Thursday's assault on Hadi Khamenei, publisher of
the radical pro-Khatami daily Jahan-e-Islam and an adviser to the president.
Hadi was taken to hospital with head wounds after hardliners beat him
up at the Mohammadieh mosque in the holy city of Qom, site of theological
schools where many of Iran's leading clerics have trained and a stronghold
of anti-Khatami conservatives.
The moderate president said such violence should be denounced particularly
"in the theological schools, which are centers for morality, Islamic
ethics and teachings," according to the official IRNA news agency.
The Salam newspaper reported Saturday that attackers broke windows
in the mosque, tore up portraits of the president and shouted "Death
to Khatami" as Hadi was preparing to give a speech.
Hadi is a controversial figure even within his own family, because
of his links with the radical left, opposing him to his brother Ayatollah
Khamenei, who is regarded as the power behind the conservatives linked
to the bazaar traders and the traditional religious hierarchy.
Hardliners have been striking hard at leading moderates and figures
from the radical left, who together make up the political coalition backing
the reformist president.
They have have accused a number of religious figures, politicians and
journalists of favouring the "the Great Satan" (the United States)
and opposing the subordination of the political system to the supreme leadership
of a religious guide, currently Ayatollah Khamenei, Hadi's older brother.
The current upsurge of violence is the latest in a merciless war that
has been going on between radicals and conservatives through the 20 years
of the existence of the Islamic republic.
Meanwhile moderate reformers, late arrivals on the political scene,
have switched their support from one group to the other.
The radicals, backed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- the founder
of the Islamic republic who died in 1989 -- were at the political forefront
until the imam's death, but after that the moderates and conservatives
did their best to marginalise them.
A reversal of the alliance -- the moderates switching allegiance to
join the radicals -- led to Khatami's victory in the May 1997 presidential
Now inter-factional tension is heightening in the run up to Iran's
first-ever municipal elections on February 26, and there have been a number
of violent episodes, particularly in Qom.
Groups of hardliners have attacked and disrupted speeches by leading
supporters of the presidential camp several times in recent days.
Rasul Montajabnia, a close associate of Hadi Khamenei, was beaten up
in Qom on Thursday evening in exactly the same circumstances as Hadi himself,
the Salam newspaper said.
Mehdi Karubi, a former speaker of parliament and leader of the radicals,
is reported by the press to have escaped an attack there recently.
Last month a religious gathering led by the influential Ayatollah Jalaeddin
Taheri, a Khatami supporter, was attacked by extremists in the central
town of Isfahan.
Intellectuals in the president's camp are also being targetted.
Last week hardliners prevented Salam's chief editor Abbas Abdi from
speaking at a political rally in Qom.
Abdi, one of the organisers of the hostage-taking in the US embassy
in Tehran in 1979, has been singled out by hardliners since he held a meeting
in Paris in July with one of his former captives, the American diplomat
Another of the former hostage-takers, Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, was attacked
at the beginning of this month in the western town of Hamedan.