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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 12:44 GMT
Leading Iranian reformist 'arrested'
Burning of US flag
Conservatives marked the US embassy takeover

It has been reported in Iran that a leading figure in the reformist movement, Abbas Abdi, has been arrested at his home in Tehran.

The arrest comes amid a crackdown by the hard-line judiciary on organisations conducting public opinion polls.

Abbas Abdi
Abdi was a leading figure in the US embassy takeover
Mr Abdi was director of a polling organisation that was closed down last week.

A spokesman for the biggest reform faction, the participation front, said that security officials went to Mr Abdi's house mid-morning and searched it, and he was then arrested and taken away.

There was no immediate word from the judiciary as to why it had ordered a detention which is bound to cause a storm in political circles, given Mr Abdi's status as one of the leading lights in the reform movement, although he holds no official post.

But it is widely believed the arrest is in connection with the judiciary's current campaign against polling organisations which have been producing reports not welcomed by the right-wing faction.

Poll on US

Mr Abdi's own outfit, called Ayandeh, was closed down four days ago and another of its directors, Hossein Qazian, detained.

Timeline: US embassy hostage crisis
Nov 79 - Iranian students seize 63 hostages and demand return of Shah to face trial
April 80 - Secret US rescue mission ends in disaster in desert with eight marines dead
Jan 81 - Last 52 hostages freed after intense negotiation
Ayandeh had conducted a poll on behalf of Gallup late last year on attitudes to the United States.

But the judge in charge of the case has also said that British officials had recently held discussions with Ayandeh about the possibility of conducting a poll on Iranian relations with the UK.

Mr Abdi's arrest came, ironically, as hard-liners were commemorating the anniversary of the storming of the American embassy in Tehran by militant students in 1979.

Abbas Abdi was one of the leading figures in the embassy takeover, but now, like many of his comrades, he is a prominent advocate of reform at home, and detente with the outside world.

Just as Mr Abdi was being detained, a demonstration was being staged near the former US embassy in central Tehran, which is now a Revolutionary Guards facility.

Hard-line demonstration

Several thousand people chanted "Death to America!" and burnt the US and British flags.

Many of those taking part were schoolchildren who had been given the day off and bussed in for the occasion.

Such demonstrations are organised every year, but are not attended by reformists such as Abbas Abdi and others who took part in the embassy seizure, which led to a rupture of relations between the two countries as US diplomats were held hostage for 444 days.

The closure of Ayandeh and the arrest of its directors follows a similar move by the judiciary last month against another company which had conducted a poll on Iranian attitudes to relations with the United States.

The results, widely published in the reformist press, said that around three-quarters of those polled favoured negotiations with Washington aimed at restoring normal relations.

Hard-liners have accused the pollsters of fabricating the results, and also of selling secrets to foreign powers by conducting a poll commissioned by the Japanese embassy on Iranian public perceptions of Japan.

See also:

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