Iran MPs criticise arrests of intellectuals

TEHRAN, Iran - A group of current and former Iranian MPs have criticised the judiciary for arresting dozens of intellectuals on charges of subversion, the official IRNA news agency said on Tuesday.

"We hoped you would keep your promises and reform the judiciary," an open letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi said.

"Unfortunately we are seeing new weak points, including the round-up of members of the religious-nationalist alliance."

About 60 dissidents close to the alliance, which advocates tolerance and pluralism, and the banned liberal Islamist Iran Freedom Movement have been put in "temporary" solitary confinement without trial since the court's crackdown on free speech started on March 11.

The MPs said the arrests lacked legal justification.

"Based on remarks by the head of Tehran's justice department, there is no evidence against several of the detainees," the letter said.

The head of the hardline Revolutionary Court which ordered the arrests has said the intellectuals, many of whom are university professors and writers, are still being interrogated and will probably stand trial within two months.

The letter also criticised a 13-month jail sentence handed down against reformist MP Hossein Loqmanian for allegedly slandering the judiciary.

Loqmanian, who was briefly arrested in January, is now free on bail pending an appeals court ruling on the case.

Iran's judicial apparatus is dominated by hardliners bitterly opposed to moderate President Mohammad Khatami's attempts to reform the 22-year-oil Islamic Republic.

Relations between the mainly reformist parliament and the courts have been tense since the clampdown began.

05:51 06-26-01

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