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Sunday, 10 September, 2000, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Ayatollah's brother faces court summons
Hardline conservatives
Hardline conservatives back curbs on press freedom
By Iranian affairs reporter Sadeq Saba

Hadi Khamenei, the younger brother of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been summoned by a special religious court to answer charges of unspecified press offences.

The younger Mr Khamenei, who supports the reformist President Mohammad Khatami, is the publisher of a moderate newspaper in which the alleged offences were committed.

Mr Khamenei says he has not yet decided whether to appear before the tribunal.

The move is the latest in a series of measures against pro-reform publications, which have caused growing concern in pro-reform circles.

Details of the charges against Hadi Khamenei and his daily newspaper, Hayat-e No, are yet to emerge.

But Mr Khamenei said the Special Court for the Clergy has ordered him to appear before the tribunal on Monday to answer charges brought against him by the prosecutor.

Summons

The summons was sent to the Iranian parliament because Mr Khamenei is a member of the majority reformist faction in the chamber.

Hayat-e No:
Hayat-e No: One of Iran's few remaining moderate newspapers
Hayat-e No is one of the few newspapers not to have been closed in the recent wave of crackdowns against pro-reform publications.

Mr Khamenei is allied with President Khatami and is opposed to his older brother, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who as supreme leader of Iran is considered closer to the conservatives.

Hadi Khamenei is a cleric himself and that's why he is summoned by the Special Court for the Clergy.

Challenge

But pro-reform clerics say that the religious court is unconstitutional and has no authority to consider press offences.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen as closer to the conservatives
A refusal by Mr Khamenei to appear before the court will be seen as a direct challenge to his brother, who appointed the court to deal with offences committed by clerics.

In the past some clerics refused to accept the authority of this court, insisting that only an ordinary tribunal with the presence of a jury was competent to hear press offences.

But this court has been very active in recent years, ordering the closure of several newspapers and sentencing clerics to long term prisons.

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See also:

21 Aug 00 | Middle East
Khatami criticises press clampdown
06 Aug 00 | Middle East
Punch-up over press law
23 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran cracks down on press
08 Aug 00 | Media reports
Iranian press back Ayatollah's intervention
07 Aug 00 | Middle East
Journalist arrested in Iran
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