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Iran President Calls for Moderation

April 9, 2001

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran’s reformist President Mohammad Khatami called for moderation Monday after hard-liners who control the judiciary ordered the arrests of 42 dissidents over the weekend.

``Extremism is always harmful, and it is moderation and justice that can lead us to attain our lofty goals,″ Khatami said in thinly veiled criticism of hard-liners who are fighting to impose their own version of rigid Islamic rule on a population that is largely clamoring for greater social and political freedoms.

Khatami’s comments came shortly after the reformist-dominated parliament summoned the intelligence minister for questioning about Saturday’s arrests of members of the Freedom Movement.

Relatives said the hard-line court that ordered the arrests refused to say where the detainees were being kept or to show evidence backing up charges that they were seeking to ``overthrow the Islamic establishment.″

Reformist legislator Abdollah Sohrabi said Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi was expected to appear in the Majlis, or parliament, on Tuesday to answer whether his ministry was consulted before the judiciary ordered the arrests.

Fereshteh Bazargan, whose husband, Mohammad Hossein Baniassadi, was one of those detained, said Monday that court officials were not responding to questions.

``Court officials even don’t bother to tell us where our loved ones are being held and what their situation is,″ Bazargan said. She is the daughter of Mehdi Bazargan, the late founder of the Freedom Movement who was briefly prime minister after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

One of the detainees, Mostafa Mofidi, was freed Monday but said he was warned not to speak of what happened to him.

On Sunday, Khatami had expressed his regret over the arrests, saying ``such measures are not in the interest of the political system and people.″

The arrests _ the second time members of the Freedom Movement have been detained in less than a month _ come at a critical time.

The June presidential vote could determine the course of a popular reform movement that began after Khatami’s 1997 election. Hard-liners appear to be trying to clear the field of competitors ahead of the vote.

Khatami has not said if he will run for another four-year term, but if he does, he is almost sure to win _ hard-liners have either barred nearly all of his closest associates from politics or arrested them.

In a Monday speech to education officials in Tehran, Khatami appeared to suggest that the hard-liners could not kill the reform movement with their tactics.

``Ignoring realities does not make them disappear. If intellectual freedom is not allowed, such thoughts will go underground″ and become dangerous, the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as saying.

Last month, the Revolutionary Court banned the Freedom Movement on charges that it was seeking to overthrow the Islamic establishment. Four pro-democracy newspapers also were banned, raising the number of publications closed in the past year to 36.

Update hourly