Hardline court arrests four Iranian dissidents

TEHRAN, Iran - A son-in-law of Iran's foremost dissident was arrested along with three associates a day after the home of the dissident's son was raided by hardline court agents, a statement obtained on Thursday said.

Mojtaba Feyz and three religious scholars close to Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri were arrested on Tuesday by agents of the Special Court for Clergy, Mojtaba's wife Saeedeh said in the statement published on Montazeri's website.

The popular reformist daily Norouz also reported the arrest.

The court agents seized documents, computers and compact discs after searching Feyz's home and shop, his wife said.

Ayatollah Montazeri, one of Iran's highest-ranking clerics, has been under house arrest since 1997 for criticising Iran's system of supreme clerical rule.

He was once due to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini but the Islamic Republic's founder dismissed him as heir apparent after rows over the treatment of political prisoners, the rule of law and other issues.

The house of Montazeri's oldest son Ahmad was raided on Monday by 12 agents of the Special Court for Clergy, and money, documents and books were taken, the statement said.

The court is independent of Iran's judiciary and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who personally appoints its judges. It has been instrumental in silencing dissent among reform-minded clerics in the past.

Montazeri, in his late 70s and in poor health, demanded limits on the powers of the supreme leader, whose authority extends to much of Iranian life, arguing he must be subject to the law and the will of the people.

His 1997 attack on the credentials of Khamenei led to the closure of his religious school, an attack by rightist gangs on his office in Qom, south of Tehran, and his confinement to house arrest.

Montazeri's other son Saeed, an injured veteran of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, has been held in "temporary" confinement in an undisclosed detention centre since his arrest by the Special Court for Clergy last year.

Supporters say Saeed was detained for distributing copies of his father's political memoirs, while conservatives allege he helped publicise a leaflet undermining Iran's security services.

06:31 07-19-01

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