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Iranian reformist journalist arrested

TEHRAN, Iran, April 22, 2000 (BBC) -- A prominent Iranian pro-reform journalist, Akbar Ganji, has been arrested on the orders of Iran's press court. Mr Ganji had been investigating possible complicity by the security services in a series of political murders in Iran in 1998.

Articles he published just before February's parliamentary elections implicated the former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in the murders.

Entering the court, Mr Ganji acknowledged his arrest was possible.

"This is the price we pay for exposures in connection with the serial murders," he said.

'Anti-Islamic' remarks

There have also been reports that the Ministry of Justice had summoned him over anti-Islamic remarks he is alleged to have made during a conference in Berlin earlier this month.

The conference, which was disrupted by exiled opposition activists, was strongly criticised in Iran - leading thousands of people to demonstrate in Tehran against the reformists and writers who had attended.

Television coverage of the conference was broadcast in Iran in an apparent attempt to discredit the reformist cause.

Mr Ganji's lawyer, Gholamali Riahi, said outside the courtroom that his client was innocent of any offence.

Allegations

A former ideological official in the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mr Ganji has outraged the establishment with his detailed allegations in the press of high-level complicity in the murders of dissidents.

Now an editor of the reformist newspaper Fath, Mr Ganji is the latest in a string of journalists to be arrested on the orders of the press court - which has ordered the closure of several daily papers.

The arrest comes just days after Iran's outgoing conservative parliament approved tough new measures against the pro-reform press.

Earlier this month, the press court sent another pro-reform journalist, Mashallah Shamosolvezin, to prison for 30 months for "insulting Islamic values".