Cartoon enrages Iran's conservatives

13 January 2003
A new conflict has broken out between reformists and hardliners in Iran, over the publication by a reformist newspaper of a cartoon allegedly insulting former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Thousands of conservative clerical students took to the streets in the city of Qom to protest, while a special clerical court suspended the Hayat-e No paper and arrested three of its journalists. However reformists accused their opponents of using the cartoon as a pretext to incite conservative anger and discredit reformers ahead of parliamentary elections in February. The drawing, which is 65 years old, depicts a supreme court judge being squashed under the thumb of President Franklin Roosevelt. However, because the judge wears a black robe, and is elderly and bearded, protesters claim he bears a resemblance to Khomeini and that the cartoon is therefore insulting. The paper's director Hadi Khamenei, brother of current supreme leader, told the Majlis (parliament) in an emotional defence that he would rather have died in the Shah's prisons than live to insult Khomeini.

The head of Iran's conservative-dominated judiciary has been referred a case concerning a 19-year-old Iranian man sentenced to death for drinking alcohol. The man had already been arrested and whipped twice for the same offence, when a judge in Shahre Rey, south of Tehran, imposed the punishment.

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