Qom, March (AKI) Grand Ayatollah Hoseynali Montazeri, the highest authority of the Shi’ites worldwide, once again expressed criticism of the Government of the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and called on the government to, “bearing in mind the current difficulties, renounces its emotive and extremist policies and strives to overcome the current isolation, to prevent political and economic pressures from crushing the country and the population".
The cleric, one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who was speaking to the Italian private news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) ahead of the 14 March controversial Majles (Parliament) elections that confirmed the obvious victory of the ruling conservatives, also said: "A parliament chosen under these conditions and without genuine and fair competition, surely cannot be representative of the majority of Iranians”.
The errors committed by the Islamic Republic and the gratuitous provocations of the current government are the basis for the lack of international trust in our country
Considered the natural heir to Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Mr. Montazeri was "disinherited" by his mentor for having criticised the mass executions of the middle of the 1980s.
and sent to the religious city of Qom to teach.
However, he was placed under house arrest by the present leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, angered at the criticism Ayatollah Montazeri made publicly of his lavish way of life, his authoritarianism in conducting the affairs of the nation.
In an exclusive interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), Montazeri, considered a conservative with regard to Islam and one that politically, can be defined as a pragmatist with great respect for human rights, stressed that "all governments and people have to have access to technology and nuclear energy".
He said that "the errors committed by the Islamic Republic and the gratuitous provocations of the current government are the basis for the lack of international trust in our country".
"These errors have brought about an international cohesion that has been manifested in the sanctions against Iran with worrying consequences for the population", Montazeri told AKI.
The Grand Ayatollah hopes that "the government, bearing in mind the current difficulties, renounces its emotive and extremist policies and strives to overcome the current isolation, to prevent political and economic pressures from crushing the country and the population".
Montazeri also referred to the charges that that have been leveled against Tehran that it is interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours, particularly Iraq.
Ayatollah Khamenehi put Grand Ayatollah Montazeri under house arrest
"Although it is our duty to help neighbouring countries, with which we share a common faith and culture, and which today are facing difficulties, this help should in no way become interference. In the same way, that great powers should not influence the choices made by developing countries with their economic support", he said.
The Grand Ayatollah had a strong response to a question on the failure of many people to a secure a candidacy in the upcoming parliamentary elections on 14 March.
"The failure of useful people with experience to secure their candidacy, just like the strong pressures that have been placed on newspapers and journalists, as well as women and students, causes the deepening divide between the people and power", said Montazeri.
"It calls into serious question the legitimacy of the government and of the institutions," he said.
"Under the current conditions, with the rise in international pressure, I don't understand why our government has not thought about the consequences of its choices", said Montazeri.
"The people are already unhappy about runaway inflation and rising unemployment, and these unwise decisions have done nothing but fuel the popular dissent", he told AKI.
A parliament chosen under these conditions and without genuine and fair competition, surely cannot be representative of the majority of Iranians.
"A parliament chosen under these conditions and without genuine and fair competition, surely cannot be representative of the majority of Iranians, who will see themselves governed by a uniformed minority incapable of responding to their needs", he said.
The Grand Ayatollah is also the spokesperson for the disaffected of the Iranian population who do not take a positive view of the generosity with which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government has lavished aid on certain Middle Eastern movements and Latin American countries.
"It is obvious that the Iranian population should not have to pay the price for this lavish aid to other countries and movements", he said, adding that "this winter many parts of the country suffered from the cold and the lack of fuel for heating".
Tracing back the past 29 years of life in Iran, Montazeri said that "I do not accuse anyone of betrayal, but I cannot ignore that with the extremism of some and the authoritarianism of others, we have prevented the materialisation of the principle objectives of our revolution, which were political and civil freedom for the entire population," he said.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri also hinted at the massive presence of the military and the clergy on the country's political and economic scene, which has been the subject of strong criticism by the reformist forces.
"On the interference of the military in political life, I will repeat the statement of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who said that it is not in the interest of the country or even the armed forces that wear a uniform to put themselves into political games and to align themselves with the parties", he said.
Mr. Montazeri sayd all nations must have the right to use nuclear energy for pacifiv uses.
Montazeri is not even in favour of the presence of the clergy in executive roles.
"The clergy must keep themselves as far as possible from executive roles and from the centres of power so as not to compromise its role as the spiritual guide of the population", said the Grand Ayatollah.
This vision by Montazeri who has always been opposed to the presence of the clergy in executive roles, is one of the reasons for which he was distanced in his time from Ayatollah Khomeini.
Mr. Montazeri is not against the death penalty, which is provided for under Islamic Sharia law, but he is convinced that the Islamic Republic is abusing this law.
"The death penalty was provided for bloody crimes and on the request of the relatives of the victim and on other rare occasions and always if the accused had freely admitted the crime, but in no case if the confession is the consequence of the use of force, of torture or other types of pressures", he said.
"It is obvious that the Iranian population should not have to pay the price for this lavish aid to other countries and movements
As for the practice of stoning, another punishment that has recently been applied by Iranian judges, Montazeri stressed that "the conditions under which such a sentence may be passed are so difficult that it would render this almost impossible".
"To prove the crime of adultery, one needs to listen to four reliable eye-witness testimonies, which is almost impossible", he said.
"In no case has Islam allowed the stoning of children by their parents, which unfortunately happened recently when a father stoned his 14-year-old daughter after he suspected her of having a relationship with a man", said Montazeri. ENDS MONTAZERI 19308
Editor’s note: Mr. Ahmad Rafat is a veteran Iranian-Italian journalist, expert in Iranian, Middle East and Balkan affairs.
The above interview was published by AKI on 14 March.
Highlights are by IPS