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Saturday, June 19, 1999 Published at 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK


World: Middle East

Iranian journalists arrested

The press has enjoyed growing freedoms under President Khatami

The Iranian authorities are reported to have arrested the publisher and editor of a student newspaper that has been critical of clerical hardliners.

The move is the latest in a series of clampdowns against supporters of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The local media says the journalists were arrested on Thursday, on the orders of a Tehran revolutionary court.

A judicial spokesman said the two - Heshmatollah Tabarzadi and Hossein Kashani - have been accused of spreading anti-Islamic propaganda.

The newspaper, Hoveyat-e-Khish, was banned because of its attacks on clerical hardliners.

On the same day, a moderate cleric was assaulted after giving a speech on the anniversary of the death of the Islamic intellectual, Ali Shariati, in a mosque in the town of Lahijan, in northern Iran.

About 20 people attacked the cleric, Hojatoleslam Hassan Yusefi-Eshkevari, who lost his turban and fled without his religious robes or shoes.

Press trials

Iran's moderate press, which has enjoyed considerable freedom since President Khatami's election two years ago, has been coming under increasing pressure recently from conservatives.

Earlier this month, parliament introduced a new bill that refers certain press offences to revolutionary courts, where there is no jury and no access to lawyers.

Journalists say the bill would also give more power to conservative-controlled bodies to close down independent newspapers.

Two months ago the liberal newspaper Zan, meaning woman, was banned after carrying a message from the widow of the former Shah.

The paper's owner, a daughter of ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani, is expected to be put on trial for publishing the message.



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