24 December AFP

140 academics condemn political repression in Iran


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Some 140 Iranian university teachers have condemned the unjustified detention of liberal opposition members by the country's revolutionary courts, the reformist Noruz paper reported Monday.

In an open letter to pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami, the signatories, among them figures close to the reformist movement, asked the head of state "to put an end to the arrests" and "intervene to restore citizens' rights."

The petition said defence lawyers had not been able to study the cases against their clients, while the revolutionary court has been unable to supply proof of the accusations, according to Noruz.

In a similar move earlier this month, parliament's reformist majority condemned the conditions of detention of the political prisoners, their trials behind closed doors and "the unjust and unconventional circumstances of the hearings."

More than 60 dissidents have been tried since November 11 by the conservative-dominated revolutionary court, an institution set up in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution to try officials from the ousted imperial regime and "counter-revolutionaries."

Their leader, Ibrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister and head of the opposition nationalist Iran Freedom Movement (IFM), was formally accused on November 13 of trying to overthrow the regime. Yazdi is in the United States, where he went for medical treatment.

The courts have issued an arrest warrant for him, accusing him and his political allies "of actions against the internal security of the state."

Among the accused are numerous members of the IFM, founded by the late Mehdi Bazargan, who was a leading architect of the revolution and the Islamic republic's first prime minister, though he fell from grace within months. Although officially outlawed, the IFM had been tolerated until recently. It was completely banned in March, when those currently on trial were arrested.

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