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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK

World: Middle East

Tehran mayor goes to jail

Gholamhossein Karbaschi: Popular but sent to jail

The reformist former mayor of Tehran has been taken to jail, despite a campaign objecting to his imprisonment.

He was taken to Evin prison in northern Tehran in a police car after a Tehran court confirmed the sentence.

Supporters of Gholamhossein Karbaschi had hoped that a petition signed by more than 130 members of parliament - nearly half the chamber - asking for Mr Karbaschi to be pardoned by Iran's supreme leader, would be successful.

Caroline Turriff: "Mr Karbaschi's arrest is part of the power struggle between moderates and conservatives"
Mr Karbaschi, a key ally of the moderate President Mohammad Khatami, was sentenced to two years in jail, after being convicted on corruption charges last year.

He has consistently pleaded his innocence and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Correspondents say the campaign against his imprisonment is the latest chapter in an intensifying power struggle between conservatives and moderates in Iran.

General charged

Mr Karbaschi failed in his attempts to obtain a retrial from the conservative judiciary.

This week, a senior general appeared in court charged with ordering the torture of Tehran city officials, in a bid to obtain confessions which were later used to convict the former mayor.

Mr Karbaschi is regarded as an efficient administrator and is extremely popular.

Moderate victories

Iran's moderates have scored some recent successes against their conservative opponents.

They thwarted conservative attempts to impeach a moderate cabinet minister, and recorded a spectacular victory in local elections in February.

But BBC regional specialist Pam O'Toole says that if they were to obtain a pardon for Mr Karbaschi, it would represent perhaps their greatest success so far.

And conservatives will be aware that if the former mayor is not pardoned, Tehran could see a repeat of the street demonstrations which followed his arrest last year.

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