Iranian judicial chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi has rejected calls from parliament to stop shutting down newspapers, a response reformers say is "unacceptable."
Shahrudi, in a letter read to parliament Tuesday, said the judiciary's decision to close down more than a dozen newspapers was "independent and made without bias."
A majority of 151 deputies in the new pro-reform parliament wrote Shahrudi on June 18th to ask for an end to the closing of newspapers and to question the grounds for the recent arrests of Iranian intellectuals.
Pro-reform President Mohammed Khatami, speaking Tuesday at a meeting of judicial officials, also deplored that "the closing of newspapers is in the midst of becoming a systematic rule."
"The Islamic regime cannot be the messenger for restrictions on the population's freedoms and legitimate rights ... and as far as newspapers are concerned, nobody can defend a violation but the problem rests on methods as they must be legal," Khatami said, as quoted Wednesday in the press.
The head of the parliament's pro-reform majority, the president's brother Mohammed-Reza Khatami, judged Shahrudi's response "unacceptable" and said that the latest judicial actions "prove that this power is not independent."
Iranian hardliners closed down 16 periodicals, including 12 daily newspapers, in April and May, all but one of them reform-oriented.
Just Sunday, the judiciary closed down another reformist newspaper, Bayan, or Expression, which was run by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi, a former interior minister and an adviser to President Khatami.
On Wednesday the first of a string of cases involving the suspended papers opened before press court judge Saeed Mortazavi.
Prosecutor Ali Asghar Tashakori demanded that the pro-reform weekly Ava be closed permanently and its director Mostafa Izadi and other managers punished.
He accused it of trying to weaken the principle of the supremacy of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and also changing from a culture and sports publication to a political weekly - TEHRAN (AFP)
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