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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK

World: Middle East

Iran bans pro-reform paper

Mr Mosavi-Khoeniha was spared lashes and prison

The Iranian pro-reform newspaper Salam, whose closure sparked major riots in Tehran last month, has been banned for five years by a special clerical court.

The clerics also suspended its publisher Mohammad Mosavi-Khoeniha from working in journalism for three years.

Iran crisis
Mr Mosavi-Khoeniha, 60, was convicted of defamation and spreading false information by the court last week.

His newspaper Salam, which supports Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, was closed down in July after it printed a document outlining moves to curb press freedom.

The ban prompted student protests which led to riots in Iran - the worst social unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The BBC's Enayat Farni: "Reformists think the drive to restrict other papers will continue"
The Special Court for Clergy also sentenced Mr Mosavi-Khoeniha, a former prosecutor general, to prison terms totalling more than three years and lashes. However, both were suspended in light of his "revolutionary credentials".

Instead he was ordered to pay fines totalling 23 million rials ($7,600), according to television reports.

Mr Mosavi-Khoeniha was a close associate of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and led the group of students who seized the American Embassy in Tehran.

Public service

His newspaper was accused of insulting members of parliament and misleading public opinion by distorting the news.

[ image: The closure of Salam sparked days of unrest]
The closure of Salam sparked days of unrest
The allegations stemmed from Salam's publication last month of what it said was a secret memorandum from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry outlining a campaign against the pro-reform press.

During his hearing before a jury of eight clerics, Mr Mosavi-Khoeniha said his newspaper had performed a public service by publishing the document, which he denied was classified.

"I say from the bottom of my heart and soul that our Islamic system can only carry on if it guarantees the maximum of legitimate freedoms within the framework of the constitution," he said in his defence.

The trial came under fire from human rights organisations which said it fell short of international standards.

Iran's conservative-led parliament has recently approved tough new press restrictions.

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