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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Row over reformist's shooting
Saeed Hajjarian in hospital
Mr Hajjarian is conscious but paralysed and unable to speak
By Jim Muir in Tehran

A public disagreement has broken out in Iran between the Intelligence Ministry and the judiciary over the handling of the assassination attempt on a leading reformist figure last month.

Saeed Hajjarian was shot and severely wounded in a Tehran street by a would-be assassin who is reported to be among a number of people arrested.

Mr Hajjarian is lying in his hospital bed, conscious but paralysed and unable to speak after being shot through the cheek. A single bullet is still lodged in his neck.

At least half a dozen people have been arrested, including the alleged assailant and the man who drove the motorcycle on which he escaped.

Political ramifications

The original arrests were made by the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit.

Mr Hajjarian is one of President Khatami's allies
However, the suspects ended up being held and interrogated by the Intelligence Ministry.

But the judiciary, which had appointed a special judge to investigate the case, asked for the men to be handed over to it, hinting that they might have been subjected to physical pressure by the ministry.

They have now been handed over but not without protest. The Intelligence Minister, Ali Younesi, wrote publicly to President Mohammad Khatami, asking him to set up a commission to examine the insinuations made against his ministry.

It is partly a legal dispute but not without political ramifications.

The reformist party, Musharekat, in which Mr Hajjarian was a leading light, has sided clearly with the Intelligence Ministry.

It issued a statement accusing the judiciary of trying to speed up the case to head off a deeper inquiry which might uncover the masterminds behind the operation, who the reformists believe are connected to the right wing.

But conservative circles have blamed the assassination attempt on splits within the reformist movement.

They now accuse the reformists of trying to spin out the investigation so they can continue spreading tendentious rumours.

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25 Mar 00 | Middle East
Ten held over reformist's shooting
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Analysis: Who wanted Hajjarian dead?
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Leading reformer shot in Iran
11 Mar 00 | Middle East
Reformist victories cancelled in Iran
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Analysis: Obstacles to change
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