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TEHRAN (AP) _ Iran's supreme leader has pardoned a former interior minister who was serving a five-year prison sentence for dissent, state media reported Tuesday.

The pardon for Abdollah Nouri, a cleric and close ally of President Mohammad Khatami, was issued after he had served more than two years of the sentence.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, granted the pardon after a request from Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karroubi and legislators, the government-run newspaper Iran reported.

Nouri was out of prison Tuesday as he had been granted permission to attend the funeral and memorial gatherings for his brother, Ali Reza Nouri, a reformist lawmaker who was killed in a car accident last week.

``Given the petition signed by the parliament's speaker and several lawmakers, and considering the sad demise of Ali Reza Nouri, I agree to the proposal (to free Nouri),'' the Iran newspaper quoted Khamenei as saying in a Monday letter to the head of judiciary.

In November 1999, a Special Clerics Court sentenced Nouri to five years in jail for saying that Khamenei was not above the law. He entered prison early in 2000.

Iranian conservatives, who dominate the judiciary, believe the supreme leader is answerable only to God, and stands above the constitution.

Nouri condemned the sentence as illegal and said the court was unconstitutional.

Nouri supports Khatami's program of social and political reform, which hard-liners have done their best to thwart as they regard them as undermining the 1979 Islamic revolution. Dozens of pro-reform activists have been detained without trial or convicted in closed trials, and more than 80 liberal newspapers have been shut down by the judiciary.