Reformist paper banned

26 July 2002

A Tehran appeal court in late July upheld a verdict suspending publication of the reformist Norouz newspaper and sentencing its director to six months in prison. The ruling comes amid rising tension between hardliners and reformers, highlighted by the controversial resignation of the prominent reformist Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri and a threat by Iran's largest reform party to withdraw from the government in mid July. President Khatami on 23 July during a visit to Malaysia said that he will not consider resigning from his post despite the growing opposition from hardline critics to the reformist camp.

The court on 24 July ruled that the publication of Norouz will be suspended for a period of six months, while the daily's director, Mohsen Mirdamadi, who also heads the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, was sentenced to jail for a similar period of time. Mirdamadi was also banned from engaging in press activities for four years. The court found him guilty of several charges, including issuing 'anti-regime propaganda, insulting leaders, publishing lies and propagating moral decadence'.

The closure of Norouz is the latest in a series of events that have tested the patience of reformers. On 22 July, reformists reacted angrily to a condemnation of government policies by the Revolutionary Guards, an elite military unit reporting to Supreme Leader Khamenei.

President Khatami in response to the latest developments said that he hoped to press ahead with his reform efforts in a calm manner. 'We do not wish for any tension,' Khatami said in Kuala Lumpur. ' We have a lot of work to do domestically and internationally. We should have a calm and tranquil situation to do this.'

On 20 July, Khatami had joined calls for unity by the supreme leader in response to remarks by US President Bush, openly supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in the country.

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