KHATAMI BACKS CRACKDOWN OF THE PRESS FREEDOM

TEHRAN 30TH SEPT. (IPS) Iranian president ayatollah Mohammad Khatami praised Tuesday the leadership of the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, upheld the concept of velayat e faqih that forms the cornerstone of the Islamic regime of Iran and defended the closure of the liberal daily "Toos" that used to support his position, as the ruling conservative forced more independent and dissident publications to shut down.

A public court banned the secular monthly "Jame'eh Salem" (Healthy Society) that is known for its daring articles mostly critical of the regime, and condemned its owner, Mr. Siavosh Guran to five years suspended jail and 3 millions rials (1000 USD) fine on charges of insulting the ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny.

Though the judiciary did not specified which article it considered as defamatory to the Founder of the Islamic Republic, but informed sources told the IPS that the decision had been triggered by a well researched article that said, based on government's statistics, that the new Iranian generation considers as "nil and negative" the results achieved by the Islamic Republic.

At the same time, a special press tribunal under the supervision of Mr. Ata'ollah Mohajerani, the Islamic Guidance Minister revoked definitely the licence of the liberal daily "Toos" closed 2 weeks ago.

According to the official news agency IRNA, the interdiction of the paper had been motivated because of an interview with former French president Mr. Valery Giscard d'Estaing in which disclosed that upon his arrival to France in 1978 coming from Baghdad, Mr. Khomeiny had requested for a refugee status.

He also confirmed in the interview that was carried out in the United States by Mr. Parviz Shahnawaz, Toos's international correspondent, that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had urged the French authorities to treat the ayatollah with respect due to his rank.

However, some sources in Tehran insist that the cause of the daily's demise was the publication of an article attributed to the late grand ayatollah Abolqasem Kho'i, the former grand leader of the Shi'ate world-wide in which he rejected the doctrine of velayat e faqih, saying the idea had no place in Shi'isme.

A day before, Mrs. Fa'ezeh Rafsanjani, the younger daughter of the former president in charge of women's sports and an outspoken MP from Tehran supporting president Khatami was summoned by a public tribunal in her quality as the owner of the new daily "Zan" (Woman) to answer charges of defamation presented by general Naqdi, the commander of the Law Enforcement Forces Intelligence Unit as well as another complaint from the head of the Tehran Justice Department.

Reporting on the beating up of hojatoleslam Abdollah Nouri, Vice-president for Social Affairs and Mr. Ata'ollah Mohajerani, the Guidance Minister 2 weeks ago by thugs belonging to Ansar Hezbollah, a pressure group that takes its orders from Mr. Khameneh'i, "Zan" said general Naqdi was present at the scene, dressed in civilian and looking on.

The coordinated crackdown by the conservatives on the liberal and independent press has heightened rift between the conservatives and the "moderates" as well as in Mr. Khatami's own camp.

In his speech on Tuesday, the president warned students not to abuse freedom and at the same time advised hard line clerics not to impose their own views and conception of religion on the population.

Echoing earlier warning by the leader, Mr. Khatami said students should not abuse the existing social atmosphere to undermine people's belief. "Freedom must strengthen the faith and not weaken it, as out great leader has advised", Mr Khatami noted, observing that velayat e faqih was the "very basis of the present Iranian Islamic system and not a mere religious view" that one can be for or against it".

The abrupt closure of "Toos" by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal and jailing of 4 of its senior staffers, a measure ordered by the leader and upheld unopposed by the Guidance Minister Mr. Mohajerani was opposed in the cabinet by Mr. Nouri, the former Interior Minister who was impeached by the Majles (Parliament).

Iranian personalities and organisations inside and outside the country have denounced the very unpopular and arbitrary measure.

In an open letter to the president, 164 leading Iranian scholars, intellectuals, newsmen, political and religious personalities strongly protested to the closure of "Toos", described the decision as a "flagrant violation of the press law and the constitution", expressed their "anxiety" from the repetition of such unlawful actions and called on him to do his best to oppose such violations of law and order. ENDS 3 TOOS 3099815