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Iran Students Attacked After Talk

January 15, 2000

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Vigilantes assaulted students, injuring several, as they left a rare public lecture by a controversial Islamic thinker who has questioned religious rule by hard-line clerics, newspapers reported Saturday.

The lecturer, Abdolkarim Soroush of Tehran University, escaped unhurt in the attack Thursday in the northeastern city of Mashhad, but the vigilantes smashed the windscreen of his car as he was being driven away, the daily Asr-e-Azadegan reported.

The vigilantes waited outside the university lecture hall where Soroush spoke and attacked students as they left, the paper said.

Asr-e-Azadegan did not give a precise figure for the number of students assaulted nor did it say how severe were their injuries.

The paper described the vigilantes as ``members of pressure groups.″

The British-educated Soroush has angered the hard-line clerics in Iran’s government by questioning their use of religion to deny freedom and democracy. He stopped speaking in public about two years ago after several of his speeches were broken up by Muslim vigilantes who called themselves Ansar-e-Hezbollah, or Partisans of God, and who supported the hard-liners.

``Freedom is not limited by anything, save justice,″ he said at Thursday’s lecture. Many hard-liners would say that freedom is defined by religion.

His views have made him a frequent target of attack in Iran, but have triggered serious debates in the Muslim world.

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