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Iranian court charges prominent reformers

TEHRAN, Iran, April 30, 2000 (Reuters) - A Revolutionary Court charged six reformists on Sunday with endangering Iran's internal security by taking part in a conference in Berlin earlier this month.

State television said the court, meeting behind closed doors, ruled that the six, including three prominent journalists and a student leader, were charged with "acting against the internal security of Iran by taking part in the Berlin conference."

The conference on Iran's reforms was disrupted repeatedly by exiles opposed to Iran's Islamic system, prompting the conservative establishment to label participants as traitors to Islam and the revolution.

State television, which is controlled by hardliners, has broadcast excerpts of what it said was immoral conduct by members of the conference audience in an effort to discredit the reform movement. The video has become a hit on Tehran's black market.

The court ordered campus leader Ali Afshari, of the nationwide Unity Consolidation Office, to be held without bail. Feminists Mehrangiz Kar and Shala Lahiji, detained since Saturday, were also bound over for trial.

Also charged was investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, who was already under detention on charges of defaming the security services in news articles that linked them to the serial murders of dissidents.

Freed on bail of about $12,000 was Hamid Reza Jalaiepour, an editor of a pro-reform newspaper banned in last week's press crackdown, while Ezzatollah Sahabi, an editor of a banned journal, was released after posting bond of about $48,000.

Jalaiepour entered the session carrying a toothbrush and a kitbag and told reporters he expected to be detained. "I am always prepared to go. I carry these with me wherever I go," he said.

Another Berlin paticipant, Jamileh Kadivar, MP-elect from Tehran and wife of the liberal culture minister, has been ordered to appear on Monday.

On Saturday the same court detained the two feminists for alleged challenges to Islamic values at conference earlier this month, family members said.

Siamak Pourzand, husband of lawyer Mehrangiz Kar, said his wife and fellow femininst Lahiji were detained after being summoned to the court for interrogation.

"They kept them at the court until 4 p.m. when they announced that they would be detained. If they had wanted to release them on bail, they would already have done so," Pourzand said. "Now we have to wait."

The wave of interrogations follows the closure last week of 16 pro-reform publications in the biggest offensive to date against the movement for change championed by President Mohammad Khatami.

Scattered protests on campuses across Iran greeted the bans but there has been none of the violence that met the closure last July of the pro-Khatami daily Salam.