Iran foremost clerical dissident released from house arrest
Iran's foremost clerical dissident left his home Thursday for the first time in more than five years after he was released from house arrest.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once successor-in-waiting to the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was put under house arrest in 1997 for challenging the institution of supreme clerical rule. He left his home in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom early in the morning, accompanied by his two sons Ahmad and Saeed.
In the past, Montazeri criticized the severe treatment of dissidents, including torture and incommunicado detention, and the mass executions of political prisoners.
In November 1997, he was arrested and held incommunicado for almost two months following a speech in which he criticized the assumption of supreme powers by Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since his return to house arrest in 1998, he has been placed under increased police surveillance and prevented from teaching at his religious school.
On Thursday, the 81-year-old cleric waved to a crowd of some 100 friends and supporters, including other dissident clerics. Some conservative newspapers have said Montazeri had promised to refrain from political activity in return for his freedom.
But Montazeri said: "There have been no conditions. These rumors that my children have asked for my pardon -- all are lies and baseless. "Nobody has asked for anything and I have never asked anybody for anything, except God," Reuters reported.
In recent weeks relatives have voiced concern over Montazeri's health and political analysts said hard-liners feared his death under house arrest could have triggered protests against the political system. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)