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The BBC's Sadeq Saba reports
"The arrest will undoubtedly increase the sense of anger and frustration in the reformist camp"
 real 28k

Saturday, 5 August, 2000, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Iranian reformer arrested
Hassan Youssefi Eshkavari
Hassan Youssefi Eshkavari (left) at his arrival at Tehran airport
A leading Iranian pro-reform cleric has been arrested on charges of acting against national security and insulting Islamic values.

Charges against Youssefi Eshkevari
Spread anti-Irani propaganda
Insult Islamic values
Act against national security interests
The cleric, Hasan Youssefi Eshkevari, took part in a controversial seminar in Berlin in April at which he defended the separation of religion from state and rejected Iran's compulsory veiling for women.

He was arrested at his home in Tehran shortly after returning from France.

His arrest coincides with the closure of a pro-reform publication - the weekly Tavana - the latest of more than 20 reformist newspapers closed by Iran's conservative judiciary.

Known for its hard-hitting cartoons lampooning the country's top politicians, Tavana was accused of publishing "defamatory articles against officials".

The move comes less than a week after the ministry of culture told newspapers to stop publishing caricatures of Iranian clerics and politicians.

Conservative anger

Mr Eshkevari's outspoken defence of the separation of the state from religion has angered the conservative establishment.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is against reformists
The immediate reason for his arrest is his participation at a conference in Berlin.

He is accused of acting against national security for consorting with the enemies of the Islamic regime.

The Special Court for the Clergy has also charged Mr Eshkavari with denying Islamic sanctities such as compulsory veiling for women.

A number of pro-reform activists have already been detained for taking part in the event and the warrant for Mr Eshkevari's arrest was issued in April.

Growing opposition

Mr Eshkevari is among a growing number of young clerics in Iran who have been questioning some of the basic values of the Islamic Republic.

Before returning to Tehran from France, he told the BBC that he was innocent and said he would continue to criticise the Islamic Republic within the law.

His son also told the BBC that the police searched their house for hours before taking his father to Evin prison.

His family is concerned about his health because Mr Eshkevari suffers from severe diabetes.

Earlier he was warmly welcomed at Tehran airport by his supporters, including pro-reform members of Iran's parliament.

He told them that reform in Iran was inevitable.

If proven, the charges against Mr Eshkevari carry a minimum of 10 years in prison.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Middle East
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20 Apr 00 | Middle East
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