DEFIANT YUSEFI ESHKEVARI SAYS CLERGYMEN'S COURT IS ILLEGAL

PARIS 25TH APR. (IPS) Hojatoleslam Hasan Yusefi-Eshkevari, a prominent Islamist reformer rejected Tuesday charges filed against him by the controversial Clergymen's Special Tribunal (CST) reiterating that since he considers this body as unconstitutional, therefore its rulings are also illegal.

Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ebrahim Nekoonam, the leader-appointed Prosecutor General of the CST told the official Iranian news agency IRNA that Mr. Yusefi-Eshkevari was charged with "action against national security, propaganda against the system, insult to and rejection of the absolute sanctities of Islam, and behaviour not befitting the clergy" and would be arrested upon his return to Iran.

In interviews with Persian services of BBC and Radio France Internationale (RFI), Mr. Yusefi-Eshkevari who is presently in Paris said charges as action against national security or propaganda against the system or even insult against Islam are very general, vague and broad-based that one can not logically answer them.

"Such accusations are not new, but anyhow, since the CST is not legal in the one hand and the charges (brought against him) are of political nature, they should therefore be addressed in legal and competent courts but not this one", he observed.

Mr. Yusefi-Eshkevari was the only cleric who alongside 16 other Iranian pro-Khatami personalities attended the now famous Berlin Conference on the "Aftermath of Parliamentary Elections", a venue that served as a pretext for hard liners to organise the mass closure of reformist and moderate publications.

In a move unprecedented in the 160 years history of the Iranian press, the Islamic Judiciary, acting on instructions from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, ordered Monday the closing of Asre Azadegan, Akhbare Eqtesadi, Fath, Gozaresh Rouz, Bamdad No, Aftab Emrouz, Arya, Azad, Iran Farda, Payam Azadi, Aban, Payam Hajar and Arzesh, most of them if not all representing the religious-nationalist movement.

Ever since their historic defeat at the last February polls, the conservatives were sparing no efforts in attacking the reformist press they justly consider as the main instrument of the pro-reforms candidates who swept of the next Majles seats.

Observers noted that after the Islamic Guidance Minister Ata'ollah Mohajerani ignored "diplomatically" the leader's desire to see the independent press, particularly the most outspoken among them, muzzled, if not closed, Mr. Khameneh'i had "no choice but to express his intentions publicly and charge the Judiciary to do the job", as he did in his last address to the Basijis, or the volunteers, qualifying these publications as "the internal base" for the enemy's propaganda machine against Islam and the failed Islamic revolution.

They also observed that the new offensive against both President Mohammad Khatami and the reformists took a new dimension after the vertiginous fall of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the elections.

"As a result of this historic defeat, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani openly sided with the conservatives and injecting new blood in their the campaign against the reformist camp, he also devised plans and directed the orchestra from behind the scene, letting the role of prima dona to Khameneh'i", one journalist analysed, asking for anonymity.

Referring to the screening of parts of the Berlin Conference by the leader-controlled Television, Mr. Yusefi-Eshkevari wondered how people speaking in an open forum could have acted against the interests and stability of the system?

"In order for the people to understand what really happened there, in order for the public to realise that not only what the participants said was nothing more than what they had expressed in Iran, not only they did nothing amounting to activity against the security of the regime, but also the courage with which they defended the government and reforms initiated by President Khatami amid demonstration and protest staged by Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic", he pointed out.

He said he ignores was it is taking place behind the scene, but there is no doubt the final aim is to stop the democratisation and reforms process by cancelling the last Majles election.

"This is another wave and like others, it will end to vanish on its own", Mr. Ysefi-Eshkevari added, confirming that he would go back to Iran after he finishes the series of conferences and meetings he is scheduled to attend in several European cities and undergoing medical check up for the chronic diabetes he suffers from.

The outrageous footage, the leader-controlled Council of Guardians changing the results of the elections in some voting districts in favour of the conservatives, the closure of independent newspapers and other pro-reform publications and the jailing of three prominent journalists were strongly condemned by Grand Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri as well as several Iranian and foreign human rights organisations and governments, including France, the United States, Germany and Sweden.

The Iranian Islamic Human Rights Organisation, the pro-Khatami Association of Combatant Clergymen, the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, the Guild of Iranian Journalists and the Islamic Association of Students were among groups the anti-reform moves by the conservatives.

In a written answer to questions addressed to him by the Persian service of RFI, Ayatollah Montazeri said all these moves were against the fundamental laws and spirit of the Islamic Republic and would boomerang against those who initiates and carry it.

Because of open critics against the lavish, "kingly" lifestyle of Mr. Khameneh'i and his constant meddling in the daily affairs of the government, Mr. Montazeri has been placed in house arrest.

"Short of being able to murder Ganji, Shams, Latif Safari and other journalists and intellectuals fighting for democracy in Iran as they did with Dariush and Parvaneh Foruhar and other intellectuals and writers, and failing in assassinating Sa'id Hajjarian, the conservatives are now shutting their voices", said the Paris-based League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDHRI) in Iran.

In a communiqué received by IPS in London, Dr Karim Lahiji, the President of the LDHRI expressed his concern over the situation in Iran as a result of the closure of reformist publications and imprisonment of three journalists and called on the world's public opinion and international organisation to "rush" to defend the freedom movement of the Iranian people". ENDS ESHKEVARI REACTION 25400