02/21/2008, 00.00
IRAN

Ayatollah Montazeri blasts the lack of freedom in Iran

In a country where election races are controlled by the establishment, executions are continually increasing, and the freedom of the press and of assembly are violated on a daily basis, the voice of the 85 year-old ayatollah rings out in protest. He is one of the leaders of the Islamic theocracy, and one of the "fathers" of modern Iran.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The grand ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri denounces the lack of freedom in the Islamic republic of Iran, with special reference to the race for the upcoming elections on March 14.

The misdeeds of the council of guardians, which has dutifully barred the way for hundreds of reformist candidates, offers a disheartening panorama, and, according to the ayatollah, depicts Islam as a violent and coercive religion.

In spite of the fact that just a few days ago this same council - which has the last word on candidacies - rehabilitated 251 reformists, the moderates have little hope of matching up to the monolithic presence of the conservatives in parliament.

In a statement reported by the reformist newspaper Etemad, ayatollah Montazeri said: "We have succeeded in achieving independence. But freedom, which is advocated by Islam and the constitution, has been sacrificed. A clear and deplorable example of that is the mass disqualifications which have taken place regardless of the law and national interests and only out of political bias".

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri was one of the leaders of the Islamic revolution in Iran, and was initially designated by Khomeini as his possible successor.  His relationship with the supreme leader deteriorated when Montazeri came out in favour of the legalisation of political parties, and began to denounce the violations of freedom in the new Islamic republic.  In spite of having spent five years under house arrest and of his precarious health, ayatollah Montazeri still remains today an influential political figure in Iran, and does not hold back from criticising current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his economic policies and over the nuclear question, calling for him to moderate his usual provocative tone, which creates conflict and tension at both the national and international level.

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