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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Iran rejects political rights bill
Pro-reform supporters in Iran
Iran's reformists are struggling to effect change
By Jim Muir in Tehran

A parliamentary bill in Iran, aimed at defining political crimes and conditions for political prisoners, has been rejected by the conservative body which vets the country's legislation.

The Council of Guardians said the bill, which was drawn up by the reformist-dominated parliament last month, was in conflict with Iran's Islamic laws, and with the constitution.

The council took issue with 15 of the 24 clauses in the new bill.

A few of the objections were of a minor technical nature, where amendment might be possible.

But most of them were on key issues, which makes it highly unlikely that parliament will be able to re-submit the bill in any acceptable form.

There was disagreement over some aspects of defining political crime in the first place.

Open trials

The bill also tried to insist that all political crimes should be tried in open court before a jury.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei's decision is a surprise
This was vetoed on the grounds that it would eliminate a special religious court, which has tried dissident clerics behind closed doors.

There was also disagreement over the fundamental role of a jury.

The bill said it should decide innocence or guilt, but the council ruled that it should simply advise the judge, who is currently all powerful in Iranian courts.

In the likely event of the council vetoing an amended version of this bill, the dispute would then go automatically to a third body, the Expediency Council, for arbitration.

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