TEHRAN (AFP-IPS) Iran's top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hosseynali Montazeri has urged Islamic republic officials to release political prisoners and open the political arena to opponents of the regime.
"Now that the country faces international pressure, is it not better to avoid extremism and open the political space?", Mr. Montazeri asked in a Friday meeting with members of an NGO to defend prisoners' rights.
People have elected a government, not slogans.
"Unfortunately there are still academics, students, intellectuals and ordinary people jailed for false or political reasons. The wise thing to do is to release them in these sensitive times", he said according to a statement obtained by AFP.
On orders from the Government, three Iranian female journalist and activist have been detained at the Emam Khomeini airport before departing for a journalistic forum in New Delhi, India.
Tal’at Taqi Nia, Mansoureh Shoj’ai and Farnaz Seyfi had been arrested, all their belongings confiscated and taken to Evin prison without any reason, sources told Iran Press Service, adding that agents have also searched their houses and taken away documents and computers.
This was the second time in as many weeks that the Grand Ayatollah was coming forward criticizing the policies of the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, accused by many politicians, including in his own camp, to be the very source of United Nations sanctions against Iran, under mounting international pressure over its controversial nuclear programme.
“People have elected a government, not slogans”, he said on 21 January, in a direct hint at Ahmadi Nezhad, considered as the champion of slogans.
“Each day, we repeat that and that is our legitimate right. OK, it is our right, but one has to get his right in a manner that do not provide pretext for others. And, our right is only the one the gentlemen claim, nothing else?”, he added, referring to Ahmadi Nezhad’s daily insistence on the nuclear energy as Iran’s “legitimate right”.
In December 2006, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its repeated refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
"Unfortunately we do not use our opponents, among whom there are committed people and experts, under the pretext that they are not insiders", he said, adding, "I hope the officials wake up before it is too late and stop monopolization" of power."
It is the second time this month that Montazeri, who was once appointed to succeed the founder of the Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is criticising Islamic republic policies.
There are many countries without oil and gas and are managing their economy wonderfully, but we do have both of these resources and we spent the money in futility.
He hit out at Ahmadi Nezhad over his handling of foreign and domestic policies including Tehran's nuclear drive -- joining critical voices from conservatives and reformists against the president after his allies were defeated in December 15 key elections.
“There are many countries without oil and gas and are managing their economy wonderfully, but we do have both of these resources and we spent the money in futility, thinking of other people and forgetting our nation. It is better than the official stop futile expenditures and travels”, Mr. Montazeri observed, fingering the recent trip of the President to Latin America, a visit that was also criticized by many lawmakers.
One of the main architects of the Islamic republic, 85-year-old Montazeri was tapped as the successor Khomeini but fell from grace in late 1980s after he became too openly critical of political and cultural restrictions, but mostly the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners, ordered by Mr. Khomeyni.
He was put under house arrest in 1997 on order from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the present Iranian leader, whom Mr. Montazeri had criticized the lavish and “kingly” lifestyle, but was freed in January 2003 on health grounds. ENDS MONTAZERI 28107
Highlights and phonetisation on ames are by IPS