Iran Press Service



As the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i was defending Tuesday the Iranian Islam-based Judiciary, describing it as "one if the best and most efficient in the world", thousands of poor and destitute Iranians from a small township near Tehran protested against absence of basic services, including drinking water, electricity, oil and transportation.

Speaking to representatives and officials from the Judiciary power on the occasion of "Judiciary Day", Mr. Khameneh'i stressed that every individual has equal rights in Islam and the Constitutional Rights of the Leader, the President and other officials are equal with those of ordinary individuals, stopping short of saying "but some are more equals".

At exactly the same time and some 20 kilometres to the West of the crowded Iranian capital, more than 4000 inhabitants of the Shatareh shantytown closed the Tehran-Karaj highway with burning tyres, calling on the authorities to detach their poor village from Eslamshahr, a crowded city that saw some of the regime's worst popular demonstrations in the past years and attach it to Tehran in order to enjoy basic public services.

Defending strongly the Judiciary's record, including the closure of 19 reformist and independent dailies, weeklies and monthlies, the imprisonment of prominent journalists, intellectuals, secularists and other dissidents, ayatollah Khameneh'i pointed to the Judiciary's "special status in state affairs", saying that this power is "expected to stand against power mongers and stop the wealthy people from violating the rights of the public and strongly protect the rights of the people given the authority it enjoys in supervising the affairs and preventing crime.

However, he did not deign to hear the voice of the protesters, among the poorest in the Iranian society, where more than 30 per cent of the population, particularly in rural areas is living under the poverty line.

Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that there were many women and children among the demonstrators who would also protest to rampant unemployment, absence of public transportation, electricity, running water, health services and above all, not having received their salaries for months, as employers says being unable to meet harsh and often contradictory labour laws and regulations.

There were conflicting reports about clashes between protesters and the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), as some independent journalists told Persian services of foreign-based radios such as the BBC that the protest ended without any serious incidents while Agence France Press (AFP) said LEF used clubs and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

It also quoted eyewitnesses saying the LEF attacked the demonstrators with club and water canon, wounding several and making an undisclosed number of arrests.

Attacking violently the reformists for their persistent and open critic they address to the Judiciary concerning the closure of the pro-reform publications and jailing of journalists and publishers and intellectuals, Mr. Khameneh'i said his expectations from the judiciary is different from that of the political groups, some of them launching propaganda campaign against the judiciary to undermine its authority and force it to yield to them.

"One hardly sees any sign of honesty in their (reformists) criticism of the Judiciary", Mr. Khameneh'i noted in veiled reference to a letter addressed last week by 151 deputies to the Iraqi-born Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, protesting against his decision to shut down reformist publications, the last of them, "Bayan" being closed three days ago.

Addressing the closing ceremonies of the same event, President Mohammad Khatami took his distances from the leader's anti-reformist statement, observing that ''If a system creates peace in a society by using force, violence, and intimidation, it has secured a temporary peace in a cemetery in which people are nothing more than animated corpses".

Contrary to the leader who had backed the suspension of reformist publications by the Judiciary he controls, Mr. Khatami criticised the decision which, in his words, had become a "frequent practice" in Iran, and called on the Judiciary Chief to commission a group of legal and well-intending experts to draft clear-cut criteria as a measure with reference to which to define and adjudicate press offences.

Stressing on the importance of the independence of the Judiciary Power, Mr. Khatami said the Judiciary should not be influenced by factional pressures from "this or that national political camp".

Contradicting Mr. Khameneh'i who had reiterated earlier in the day that the Islamic Judiciary had to learn nothing from other systems, particularly the Western one, the president said ''we cannot say to be not concerned with the rest of the world, but we consider our own values as a basis, and will not be swayed by external forces into accepting anything that is inconsistent with our values". He said as a nation the Islamic Republic would abide by its international commitments.

Commenting on Mr. Khameneh'i's strong support of the Judiciary, observers and analysts said after losing the Legislative to the reformists, the conservatives have dug in the Judiciary, the last of the three Powers they still control.

"One has to recite a requiem for the reforms Ayatollah Hashemi-Shahroudi had promised when he took over, as Mr. Khameneh'i had made it clear that by reforms, he means full islamisation of the Judiciary and reinforcing one camp's hold of the whole regime and not defence of the people's individual and social rights, equality towards laws, justice for all", observed Dr. Reza Taqizadeh, a prominent Iranian affairs watchers during an inter view with the Persian and Pashtou services of the BBC.

"Unfortunately, after the leader's last statement, one has to expect the Judiciary to act more as a political and police force for the conservatives against the reformists", added Dr. Taqizadeh, who is also a Professor with British universities.

He was confirmed by Mr. Mas'oud Behnoud, a Tehran-based journalist who said "with the future of political reforms hanging on the challenges between the Judiciary controlled by the conservatives in the one hand and the Legislative and the Executive won by the reformists, one has to expect the conservatives continue waging more attacks on the reformists from their last stronghold". ENDS JUDICIARY 27600


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Iran Press Service
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