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Kadivar tells crowd Islam does not restrict freedom

TEHRAN, Sept 7 (AFP) - A cleric who spent 18 months in prison for challenging religious domination of Iranian politics told a crowd of 5,000 Thursday that Islam does not restrict freedom.

"Freedom is God's greatest gift," Mohsen Kadivar said at a ceremony marking the 21st anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Mahmud Taleqani, an architect of Iran 's 1979 Islamic revolution.

God "will never tolerate the replacement of one dictatorship by another," he said, quoting Taleqani.

This was Kadivar's first public appearance since conservative militiamen prevented him from participating in a student meeting August 23 in the western city of Khoramabad, triggering several days of clashes there.

Large numbers of policemen were stationed around the huge Hosseinieh Ershad mosque, where Thursday's ceremony was taking place, as members of the Islamist extremist Ansar-Hezbollah demonstrated in nearby streets.

By the end of the gathering, there had been no incidents.

Kadivar stressed that Islam "encouraged human dignity, social justice and power for the people."

"In an Islamic country, the people speak directly to God, without intermediary," he said, paraphrasing another Taleqani quotation. "All political power is exercised within the limits of the Constitution."

Taleqani's daughter also spoke to the gathering.

"My father was a supporter of progressive Islam. We must follow his example," Azam Taleqani said.

Another child of an Iranian political figure, Abdolali Bazargan, said that Ayatollah Taleqani "preached the acceptance of all forms of opposition in Iranian society, including the communists."

"We must develop the ideas of Taleqani, who wanted freedom, justice and unity of the people," said Bazargan, whose father, former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan, founded the progressive Islamist Iran Freedom Movement.


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