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Journalists who participated at Berlin meeting to be arrested

TEHRAN, Iran, April 12, 2000 (IPS) As the Iranian conservative forces are preparing to launch new post-election offensive against reformists, moderate newspapers in Tehran reported Wednesday that the conservative-led authorities are planing to arrest some of the journalists and intellectuals who attended the recent Berlin Conference on Iran after the Elections.

Alireza Alavi-Tabar, Editor of "Sobhe Emrouz", Hamid Reza Jala'ipour, the Executive Director of "Asre Azadegan", Akbar Ganji, the well know free lance investigative journalist, Hojatoleslam Hasan Yusefi-Eshkevari and Dr Changuiz Pahlavan, both scholars, were among the party of 17 Iranians who were invited by the Heinrisch Boll Institute to speak at the venue.

The meeting held between 7 to 9 April in the German capital was marred by noisy and violent demonstrations by Iranian opponents and ended in semi-fiasco.

Hinting at recent articles and news about the Berlin Conference published by "Keyhan", the mouthpiece of the Intelligence Ministry, most of them deliberately distorted and accusing the participant of espionage, both "Fath" and "Asre Azadegan" dailies speculated that the authorities get ready to arrest some of the participants on their return to Tehran, scheduled for Friday.

An official interrogator of the notorious Intelligence Ministry under Hojatoleslam Ali Fallahian, a former Minister, Mr. Hossein Shariatmadari, the Editor of "Keyhan" is appointed by the leader, the lame Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

Keyhan accused Mr. Ganji of telling a Berlin newspaper that the reform process would send Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to the museum of History.

Mr. Ganji denied Keyhan's story, explaining that the title of his interview with the "Tagges Zeitung" was chosen by the newspaper had nothing with his declarations.

The new offensive by the hard liners started with a decision by the Council for Discernment of the State's Interest (CDSI) to forbid the Majles (parliament) to investigate or debate all issues and organisations depending from the leader, among them the Revolutionary Guards, Radio and Television, Judiciary, Foundations, Clergymen's Special Tribunal, Security services etc.

Reformists reject the decision for being against the Constitution and explain that the spirit of the decision is purely political aimed at weakening the next 290 seats Majles largely dominated by the moderates close to President Mohammad Khatami.

The CDSI is chaired by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and number two man in the present hierarchy who was badly humiliated at the recent poll where he was "pushed" into the Majles thanks to massive and shameful vote rigging in his favour.

Since his astonishing defeat, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani has turned his wrath against the reformists and sides openly with the hard liners ever since.

[Mr. Alireza Nourizadeh, a free lance Iranian journalist working in London told the Persian service of Radio France Internationale that Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani had been involved with a failed military coup plot prepared by the Revolutionary Guards and approved by him and some other hard line clerics like Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the former howkish head of the Islamic Judiciary.

[Quoting the London-based Saudi newspaper "Al Sharq al Awsat", Mr. Nourizadeh said according to the plan, Tehran should have been occupied by the Guards after the assassination of Mr. Sa'id Hajjarian, to put down expected wide spread riots by the people, and Mr. Rafsanjani proclaimed provisory president, replacing Mr. Khatami, who would have been deposed in the meantime.

But since the Publisher of "Sobhe Emrouz" was not killed, the project fell out.

A close friend and adviser of President Khatami, Mr. Hajjarian was shot on 12th March by a lone gunman point blank, but survived the attempt. He is in hospital fighting for his live, but doctors are hoping that he could recover.

Reformists also express concern at recent action taken by the Judiciary against some reformist journalists like Mr. Masha'allah Shamsolva'ezin, the Editor of Asre Azadegan sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam, Dr Mohammar Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the President who is both leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) and the owner of "Mosharekat" daily, the IIPF's official organ, Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, the owner of newspaper 'Bayan" that replaced the banned "Salam", Hojatoleslam Hadi Khameneh'i, the younger brother of the leader (who is bitterly opposed to him), Emadeddin Baqi, an investigative journalist and others, all summoned by the leader-controlled Press Court.

At the same time, while the Council of Guardians, the conservative watch dog refuse to endorse the results of elections for Tehran and 29 other circumscriptions, the present conservative-dominated Majles is putting the last touches to a controversial bill that aims at curtailing the already limited freedom of the independent press.