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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 14:03 GMT
Jailed cleric registers candidacy

Student demonstration in Tehran Students have rallied in support of the jailed cleric

A leading reformer in Iran, the jailed former minister and newspaper editor, Abdollah Nouri, has reportedly been given permission to register as a candidate in parliamentary elections.

Iran crisis
A lawyer for Mr Nouri told the Agence France Presse news agency that the authorities had raised no objection to the registration, despite a five-year prison sentence imposed on Mr Nouri last month for spreading anti-Islamic propaganda.

But the 52-year-old cleric still has to get over the hurdle of vetting by the Council of Guardians, a conservative-dominated body which has rejected reformists candidates in previous elections.

"It's a spectacular move but we must see whether his candidacy is approved or turned down," AFP quoted an interior ministry source as saying.

Nouri Reformists are likely to make Mr Nouri speaker of parliament if they win a majority
Correspondents say if Mr Nouri is allowed to run in February's elections, it will give a huge boost to the reformists, who are likely to make him speaker of the next parliament if they win a majority.

An appeal against Mr Nouri's sentence has also been lodged, and his lawyer said the electoral authorities had accepted that the conviction was "not definitive".

Student demonstrations

The trial was widely seen as further evidence of a power struggle between Islamic conservatives and liberals who want reform.

Mr Nouri's supporters say the prosecution is a move by conservatives to eliminate him from contesting the elections, which they hope will end the conservative grip on parliament.

Thousands of students have been demonstrating in support of Mr Nouri, who is a close associate and ally of the reforming President, Mohammad Khatami.

President Khatami President Khatami urged students to participate peacefully in the elections
On Monday, about 4,000 students assembled outside Tehran University, chanting "Freedom fighter Nouri should be released."

The rally was called by the Office for Consolidation and Unity, the main reformist student group.

Organisers said they were also demanding a public trial of those responsible for the attack by security forces on a student dormitory last July, which triggered the worst unrest in Iran since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Peaceful participation

Several students died when security services came down heavily on the protests.

At the weekend, Mr Khatami told a gathering of several thousand students that they have a major role to play in bringing about reform and political development.

In his first public speech since Mr Nouri was sentenced, Mr Khatami also urged the students to be patient, peaceful and to work for political reforms by participating in the forthcoming general elections.

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Iran gears up for elections
12 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Khatami stirs student passions
11 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Banned Iranian newspaper is reborn
30 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Where now for Iran's reformists?
27 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Profile of Abdollah Nouri
01 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Khatami urges free media
15 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Student power in Iran
16 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Iran's divided society

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