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Jim Muir reports from Tehran
"Mr Karbaschi played a major role in the election of President Khatami"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 16:24 GMT
Tehran mayor pardoned

Oct 6 99 Ex-Mayor Karbaschi Karbaschi (right) meets fellow reformer Abdullah Nouri

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has given an amnesty to the jailed reformist former mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi.

Tehran radio said the move, which may have important political implications, was requested by the head of the judiciary.

Mr Karbaschi, 44, an ally of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, had been on prison leave since Saturday, and will not have to return.

Karbaschi's legal saga
April 98: Arrested on corruption charges
July 1998: Jailed for five years
December 1998: Sentence reduced to two years
May 1999: Begins jail sentence
25 January 2000: Pardoned by Ayatollah Khamenei
The former mayor, who took office in 1989, was convicted on embezzlement charges and sentenced in July 1998 to five years in prison, later reduced to two years on appeal. He was also barred from any public function.

Mr Karbaschi, who is hated by Iran's conservatives, insists his conviction was politically motivated.

His jail term began in May last year, following a trial that was widely seen as a witch hunt by conservatives trying to settle scores with the reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The mayor's support helped the president win election in 1997.

Mr Karbaschi, whose trial gripped the nation, had raised the possibility on Monday that he might not be required to return to jail when a period of prison leave ends later this week.

"Everything is possible," he told the French news agency AFP.

Tactical move by conservatives?

The pardon is seen by some analysts as part of a campaign by conservative clerics, who are led by Ayatollah Khamenei, to project a more moderate image ahead of parliamentary elections on 18 February.

A hardline vetting body has disqualified many key reformists from running in the polls, but the conservatives are known to be still worried about the outcome of the election.

It has been reported that former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had succeeded in securing an amnesty for Mr Karbaschi from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to mark the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on 11 February.

The former mayor leaves prison on a short term release last Saturday

Mr Karbaschi is closely associated with Mr Rafsanjani's faction, the so-called Servants of Construction.

And Mr Rafsanjani is running as a candidate in next month's parliamentary elections, at the head of the conservatives' list.

A 10-year ban on Mr Karbaschi taking part in any political activity, imposed with his original prison sentence, has not been lifted, although he could still benefit Mr Rafsanjani's own campaign.

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15 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Iran bars election candidates
23 Jul 98 |  Middle East
Who is the mayor of Tehran?
13 Jan 00 |  Middle East
New attack on Iran leadership
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Khamenei moves to heal leadership rift
05 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Iranian judges ban reformist paper
25 Jul 99 |  Middle East
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08 Mar 99 |  Middle East
Reformists triumph in Tehran poll

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