Montazeri supporters arrested
TEHRAN, Jan 19 (AFP) - Several supporters of dissident Ayatollah Hossein
Ali Montazeri, the disgraced former hier to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei,
have been arrested in the central city of Esfahan, a newspaper reported
"Several people were arrested after shouting slogans in favor of
Ayatollah Montazeri," said the radical newspaper Salam.
It said the arrests took place on Monday after prayers for Eid al-Fitr
marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The paper said some 70,000 worshippers had attended the prayer service
in Esfahan on Monday addressed by Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, a senior
cleric considered a supporter of Montazeri and reformist President Mohammad
On Friday, a group of Islamic fundamentalist critics of Taheri disrupted
weekly prayers in Esfahan, heckling and throwing objects at the prayer
leader and provincial governor Jaafar Musavi, another Khatami ally.
The incident angered Khatami's supporters and Iran's interior ministry
has launched an investigation.
Iran's spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday denounced the
attack. "Friday prayers are not the place to settle differences,"
While denouncing the attack, Khamenei also impliticly criticized Taheri
saying "clerics should not raise subjects likely to cause division
during their Friday sermons."
A pro-Khatami government newspaper, Sobh-e-Emrooz (This Morning), reported
Sunday that several Khatami suppporters had been arrested in Esfahan, including
a former top military commander during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Taheri's weekly prayer sermons in Esfahan are often marked by tension
and scuffles between moderates and fundamentalists.
Taheri has linked Islamic extremists to a recent spate of murders of
dissidents and intellectuals, in which the country's intelligence service
has been implicated.
The murders have caused uproar in Iran and a bitter war of words between
Khatami's backers and his hardline opponents.
Montazeri was the designated succesor to Iran's late leader Ayatollah
Khomenei before falling from grace in 1989 and being replaced by the current
spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.