The Iranian parliament moved Wednesday to defend the reform movement from conservative court pressure by approving a bill that would clearly define "political crime" in Iran.
With political charges facing a slew of reformist politicians, journalists and newspapers, the reform-majority legislature passed the bill to spell out what will constitute political crime in the eyes of the law.
The specifics will be hammered out in a second reading of the bill next week after MPs also moved to make the measure a priority on the legislative agenda.
The bill was presented by the interior ministry, whose deputy is one of several leading politicians -- most close allies of President Mohammad Khatami -- who could be facing charges in court.
The courts have kept up pressure on Khatami's reform movement since his 1997 election, closing down every major reformist newspaper and jailing prominent journalists and pro-reform politicians.
Khatami's former interior minister Abdollah Nuri is serving more than five years in prison and current Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, another close ally, is facing a possible trial for fiscal corruption.
The reformist parliament, which took office in May, is already on the verge of a bitter showdown with a conservative oversight body which Monday overruled a new bill that would ease some curbs on the press.
The Council of Guardians twice rejected the bill as "anti-Islamic," meaning the matter will go to arbitration by another conservative-led body, the Expediency Council.
MPs blasted the decision by the Guardians, who cited supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's order in August blocking parliament from debating an earlier bill that would have rolled back press restrictions.
Reformists charge conservatives with trying to undermine Khatami, who is running for re-election to a second term in May and has made instituting a "rule of law" one of his political priorities – TEHRAN (AFP)
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