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Sunday, August 15, 1999 Published at 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK

World: Middle East

Riot report blasts Iran police

The unrest was the worst in Iran for 20 years

Right-wing vigilante groups and the Iranian police have been strongly criticised by a commission investigating student riots in Tehran.

Iran crisis
The commission's report, published by the Iranian news agency, Irna, named seven senior police officials who are to stand trial as a result of an attack on a student dormitory.

Police stormed the dormitory after students rallied against the banning of a liberal newspaper.

But the dormitory attack, in July, triggered days of unrest in the Iranian capital.

The commission said in its 34-page report that law enforcement officers allowed vigilantes to attack students in the dormitory.

Subsequent unrest was inflamed in its early stages by the "improper conduct" of some members of the law enforcement forces, the report said.

Police chief 'innocent'

But the report cleared police chief Hedayat Lotfian, whom students blamed for the incident and whose dismissal they called for during demonstrations.

"[He] did not issue any orders for the entry of the forces into the Tehran University campus," the report said.

[ image: Ayatollah Yazdi: Reformers are pleased to see him go]
Ayatollah Yazdi: Reformers are pleased to see him go
Officially one person died and 20 were injured in the raid, which sparked off days of protests, though students said there were more casualties.

Publication of the report coincides with the replacement of the head of the country's judiciary, Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi, a powerful opponent of President Muhammad Khatami's reform programme, which the students broadly support.

His successor, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, is a scholarly figure with a much lower profile and may be broadly acceptable to both conservatives and reformists.


Correspondents said the report is likely to boost the standing of President Khatami, who criticised the police raid, in his power struggle with the conservatives.

The BBC's Khaled Javed: "During his 10 years in charge he gained a fearsome reputation."
A report in the Hamshahri newspaper said that 100 vigilantes, who had stormed the dormitory, had been arrested.

In a separate report, a hardline newspaper said that alleged instigators of the student protests had been sentenced to death.

The evening Kayhan daily, quoting "informed sources", said the court also gave long jail terms to several other defendants.

The replacement of Ayatollah Yazdi has been welcomed by reformists, who hope the move will strengthen their position in the country's factional infighting.

BBC Middle East Analyst Roger Hardy says that, even as President Khatami spoke of the need to create a stronger civil society where the rights of the individual would be protected, Ayatollah Yazdi was using the courts to crack down on the president's liberal supporters.

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