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Liberal cleric in Iran thrown into jail

TEHRAN, Feb 28 (AFP) - A liberal cleric close to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, was arrested late Saturday and jailed at Evin prison in Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar, is also close to liberal circles and to dissident Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was once tipped to become the nation's spiritual "guide" but who fell into disgrace in 1989. Kadivar's arrest was ordered by a special religious tribunal set up in 1985 by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny, to rule on offences implicating members of the Shiite clergy in Iran.

Kadivar is thought to have been arrested after implicitly criticising Khomeiny's successor as top religious authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Last week, Kadivar was summoned several times to appear before the tribunal "to provide explanations about his interviews and his speeches", IRNA said, without elaborating.

On Sunday, several Tehran daililes supportive of Khatami, also reported the arrest of Kadivar who comes from a prominent religious family from Shiraz, in southern Iran.

The daily, Jahan-e-Eslam, which is close to the government, said Kadivar had been detained "for having insulted" Khomeiny and his successor Khamenei and "for having spread propaganda in support of Ayatollah Montazeri".

Montazeri, who was once designated to succeed Khomeiny, has been under police surveillance for several years.

Montazeri, supported by reformers, regularly denounces the conservatives' stranglehold over the Iranian regime and has called for Khatami to be given more power.


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