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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 18:16 GMT
Analysis: Who wanted Hajjarian dead?
Sobh-e Emrouz special edition
A special edition of Hajjarian's newspaper was soon published
By Jim Muir in Tehran

The shooting of Iranian reformist Saeed Hajjarian has provoked shock and anger in the country.

Reformists have blamed right-wing extremists for the attack, which follows the defeat of the conservatives in hotly contested general elections last month.

If the would-be assassin wanted to hit one of the most significant figures in the reformist movement, he went for the right target.

Saaed Hajjarian
Hajjarian was rushed to intensive care after the shooting
Saeed Hajjarian is a man who often shuns the limelight but he is immensely influential behind the scenes.

His role in last month's general elections was typical.

He did not stand as a candidate himself but he did play an instrumental part in the reformist victory, both by campaigning directly on behalf of the main Participation Party and through his control of one of the key reformist newspapers, Sobh-e Emrouz.

He is also a key political adviser of President Mohammed Khatami, at the very core of the reformist power circle.

Radical past

Despite his outspoken liberalism, Saeed Hajjarian came up from the inside of the Islamic revolution.

In 1979 both he and his wife were among the radical students who took over the US embassy in Tehran, holding a group of American diplomats for over a year.

President Khatami
Hajjarian was a key strategist in President Khatami's election campaign
He later went into security work and eventually became deputy minister of intelligence in the 1980s before turning to politics.

If his reformist political credentials may have been enough to make him a target, his time at the intelligence ministry may have provided an additional motive.

Just over a year ago it was revealed that senior intelligence officials linked to the extreme right-wing were responsible for a series of brutal murders of dissident intellectuals and writers.

Jila Marsoosi
Hajjarian's wife, Jila Marsoosi, visited her husband in hospital
That scandal has been rumbling on the background ever since, and Saeed Hajjarian is believed to have played a key role in bringing about those damaging disclosures.

Reformists are united in blaming the extreme right for the attack on him but, more specifically, some believe that remnants of the intelligence killer group may have been the instrument.

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See also:

12 Mar 00 | Middle East
Leading reformer shot in Iran
11 Mar 00 | Middle East
Reformist victories cancelled in Iran
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
22 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran vote welcomed
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