Iranian moderates under increasing pressure from Islamic
TEHRAN, April 7 (AFP) - Iran's moderates warned Wednesday that the
regime's conservatives are trying to roll back their stunning electoral
successes with a new series of crackdowns on leading reformers.
"The conservatives want to block moderates supporting the president
(Mohammad Khatami) ahead of next year's legislative elections," said
Faezeh Hashemi, a leading moderate MP whose newspaper Zan was slapped
with an indefinite ban on Tuesday.
"New Conservative Bid to Wipe Out Moderates," the Neshat paper
cautioned in its headline, one day after the newspaper ban was announed
and the supreme court upheld a two-year prison sentence for the former
mayor of Tehran.
Meanwhile conservative MPs lashed out in parliament Wednesday against
Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, seen as one of the greatest symbols
of the new political openness under Khatami.
Mohajerani, whose wife Jamileh Kadivar was elected to the Tehran
municipal council in the February elections, was attacked for approving
a cultural festival last month in Persepolis, the historical centre of
the old "imperial" Iran.
He was also castigated for expressing his support last month for several
writers and intellectuals "hostile" to the 1979 Islamic revolution
which toppled the imperial regime.
The culture minister has likewise been targeted for the greater liberties
being taken by the Iranian press, which has been far more open in its
criticisms of the Islamic leadership since Khatami's 1997 election.
On Tuesday Zan was banned indefinitely over its publication of a new-year
message from ex-empress Farah, the wife of the shah ousted by the revolution.
It was the first time since the revolution that Farah's annual message
for the Iranian new year, which began on March 21, has been published
in the Iranian press.
Moderates suffered another setback when the supreme court upheld a
two-year prison sentence on Gholamhossein Karbaschi, the reformist ousted
from the Tehran mayor's office last year.
Karbaschi, who is politically close to Khatami, was sentenced to five
years in prison and a 20-year ban on holding public office on corruption
charges that he insisted were a political set-up.
In December the sentence was reduced to two years in jail and a 10-year
ban and Karbaschi has remained free while the supreme court considered
his latest appeal.
A judiciary spokesman said the court had rejected Karbaschi's calls
for a new hearing while newspapers said he was due to be arrested soon.
The moves come amid ongoing conservative efforts to reverse the results
of the February municipal elections, in which moderates captured all 15
seats on the Tehran municipal council and made wide gains in major cities
The conservative-dominated commission which supervised the polling
has threatened to overturn the election of the capital's top vote-getter,
former vice president and interior minister Abdollah Nuri, widely seen
as the most likely candidate to succeed Karbaschi.