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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Iranian minister condemns floggings
Iranian women
Hardliners say Iran's religious values are being eroded
By Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba

Iran's pro-reform Interior Minister, Abdulvahed Moussavi Lari, has condemned the increasing number of public floggings of young people drinking alcohol.

In an interview with a government newspaper Mr Lari said public whippings in this day and age had serious political and social consequences.

In the latest incident, 25 men were whipped in public in the capital, Tehran, on Friday for consuming and selling alcohol, which is forbidden in the Islamic Republic.

Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi Lari
Mr Lari warned of "serious consequences" for Iran
Mr Lari, who is a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami, complained that as the main official responsible for security in the country, he was not kept informed about such harsh decisions.

He also criticised judges for ordering the punishments without considering their implications.

Apart from public floggings, the stoning of women for adultery and public hangings for various crimes have been on the increase since Mr Khatami's second landslide election victory last month.

Public floggings have rarely been carried out in Iran in recent years, but in the past few weeks alone, at least 50 young men have been whipped in three separate incidents.

In the latest case, the 25 men beaten in Tehran on Friday each received between 70 and 80 lashes.

Last bastion

The Iranian judiciary is seen as a bastion of hardline conservatives, and it appears that Mr Khatami and his reformist allies are powerless to stop its controversial decisions.

Iranian students
Students have been campaigning for more rights
It appears that the judiciary is resorting to such severe punishments in an attempt to undermine President Khatami's popularity among the young.

President Khatami has promised respect for human rights and the rule of law.

But hardliners in the Iranian leadership blame Mr Khatami's reforms for what they see as the increased flouting of religious rules.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Middle East
Iran reformist jailed for six years
12 Jul 01 | Middle East
Iranian adulteress stoned to death
11 Jun 01 | Middle East
Poll boosts Khatami reform bid
11 Mar 01 | Middle East
Khatami: Iran must have democracy
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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