Hardline court shuts Salam daily
By Jonathan Lyons
TEHRAN, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Iran's hardline clerical court has banned
the country's leading pro-reform newspaper for five years and barred its
publisher from press activities, the official IRNA news agency said on
It said the court ordered a ban on the daily Salam for printing secret
documents, while publisher and managing editor Mohammad Mousavi-Khoeiniha,
a powerful leftist cleric, was suspended from journalism for three years.
The ruling by the Special Court for Clergy silences one of the most
influential voices backing reformist President Mohammad Khatami, just seven
months before parliamentary polls expected to shape the rest of his term
The court also sentenced Mousavi-Khoeiniha, a former prosecutor general,
to prison and lashes. However, both were suspended in light of his ``revolutionary
Cash fines totalling 23 million rials, or about $7,600 at the official
exchange rate, were levied in place of the jail terms and lashes, IRNA
The charges against Salam included the publication of what it said
was a secret plan by hardliners to muzzle the press. It was also charged
with insulting members of parliament and misleading public opinion by distorting
The charges stem from Salam's publication last month of what it said
was a letter from a rogue secret police official -- who later died in custody,
reportedly by suicide -- outlining a campaign against the pro-reform press.
Underlying the case is the broader struggle between Khatami and his
reformist allies against the entrenched interests of the conservative clerical
Analysts and commentators had widely predicted the closure of Salam,
which had been one of the driving forces behind Khatami's suprise landslide
election over a conservative rival in May 1997.
Even Mousavi-Khoeiniha had seemed resigned to his fate since the charges
were first filed, only appearing in his defence after the direct intercession
of the clerical court judge.
The court's original order suspending Salam was issued on July 7, the
same day that the conservative-led parliament approved tough new press
The moves touched off a pro-democracy student rally that was attacked
by police and hardline vigilantes, leading to the worst unrest since the
aftermath of the 1979 Islaimc revolution.
During his hearing before a jury of eight clerics, Mousavi-Khoeiniha
said his newspaper had performed a public service by publishing the letter,
which he denied was classified.
``I say from the bottom of my heart and soul that our Islamic system
can only carry on if it guarantees the maximum of legitimate freedoms within
the framework of the constitution,'' he said in his defence.
It was not immediately clear whether the verdict would be the subject
of an appeal.