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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Court summons for Iranian reformists

Tensions simmer between liberals and conservatives
A number of prominent reformers have been summoned to appear before a revolutionary court after taking part in a Berlin seminar on democratic reform in Iran.

The court accused them of making speeches against the system and religious principles of the Islamic Republic.

The Revolutionary Guards, who are under the personal authority of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have called for national demonstrations on Friday express outrage at the conference.

There were brawls during the conference
The seminar, sponsored by a foundation associated with the German Green Party, studied the political situation in Iran in the aftermath of the February general elections, in which the reformists scored a sweeping victory.

No date has been given for the reformists - who include close allies and supporters of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami - to appear.

Provocative dancing

On Tuesday, Iran state television broadcast extensive footage of the seminar's stormy opening session.

Reports say Iranian exiles from the opposition People's Mujahadeen were shown accusing the Khatami government of human rights violations.

And a woman dressed indecently by Islamic standards was portrayed performing a provocative oriental dance.

The Iranian reformers were also shown apparently attacking the Islamic regime, including press censorship and political repression in Iran.

The images caused uproar after their broadcast by Iranian state television.

'Psychological warfare'

Reformists themselves, clearly embarrassed by the affair, were outraged by the broadcast.

They accused state television of trying to create conditions, which would make it impossible for the new reformist-dominated parliament to take over at the end of May.

A representative of President Khatami strongly condemned the broadcast as "psychological warfare".

"The transmission of carefully selected extracts from this conference offended the public," the Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminsadeh, said on state radio and television.

"The management of the media bears the responsibility for the consequences of this game," Mr Aminzadeh was quoted as saying.

The defendants include reformist cleric Yussefi Eshkevari, investigative journalist Akbar Ganji and Ezzatollah Sahabi of the banned but tolerated secular party, the Iran Freedom Movement.

Correspondents say the court summons comes amid growing tension between reformists and conservatives in Iran.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran outcry over rowdy conference
23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's unique election
26 Feb 00 | Middle East
Khatami's caution to West
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Khatami's home town on the map
23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Can the reformists hold together?
22 Feb 00 | Middle East
Reformers promise freedoms
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's hardliners at crossroads
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
18 Feb 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Iran goes to the polls
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