Iranian MPs Approve Court Reform Bill
Iranian deputies on Wednesday approved the broad outlines of a bill to reform the court system and re-establish the office of prosecutor, reported the official Iranian news agency, IRNA.
"On the basis of the bill, the courts of common pleas are competent to handle all cases, and ad hoc tribunals are not entitled to handle any case unless the law gives them such a green light," the head of the parliamentary judicial and legal committee, Nasser Qavami, told reporters.
Under current controversial legal system, judges double as prosecutors, casting doubt on their ability to adjudicate fairly. Qavami said the bill was sent to the chamber after being prepared by the head of the powerful judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
The bill divides the courts into courts of common pleas and ad hoc tribunals, and stipulates that serious crimes, including murder and adultery, should be tried by panels of "multiple judges."
"According to the bill, press offenses should be handled in the provincial court of appeals in the presence of a jury and several judges," Qavami said.
The move comes after the Guardian Council, Iran's top constitutional watchdog, rejected a bill passed by Parliament that would define, for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution, what constitutes "political offenses" and thereby strengthen the rights of "prisoners of conscience," said IRNA.
In late April, deputies overwhelmingly approved a draft of the bill, proposed by reformist deputies backing reelected President Mohammad Khatami, that requires a "political offense" to be heard by a panel of judges in regular trial courts and not by Islamic revolutionary courts or military tribunals.
Over 40 pro-reform newspapers have been closed down by the country's conservative-dominated courts since last April, leading to the arrest and/or imprisonment of several dissidents and journalists, said IRNA – Albawaba.com
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