Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Associates of Ayatollah Montazeri Arrested

Following Public Criticism

‎Less than two weeks after grand ayatollah Montazeri spoke to a group of his followers on ‎the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramazan, in ‎which he criticized Iran’s rulers and the administration, pressures on him, his office and ‎his home have been growing. Soon after a member of his office, Mojtaba Lotfi was ‎arrested, the house of another associates, this time his son-in-law Mojtaba Feiz was ‎searched by agents from Qom’s intelligence bureau.‎

As has now been the practice, a public prayer session was held in the city of Qom under ‎the prayer leadership of ayatollah Ibrahim Amini last Wednesday on the occasion of Eid-‎al-Fitr. At the same time, grand ayatollah Montazeri, who also holds his own separate ‎public prayers for his followers, held his session in his office, which was attended by ‎several hundred individuals. After the congregational prayers, the cleric’s public talk ‎turned to a criticism of President Ahmadinejad’s government. Quoting the president from ‎a talk he had in New York that Iran was “the freest country in the world”, Montazeri ‎asked, “Why do your words not match your deeds inside the country. You call Iran the ‎freest country in the world when you are outside, but inside Iran you deprive us of our ‎basic and legal rights.”‎

‎“When someone like me who played a key role in the victory of the Islamic revolution ‎‎[of 1979] is treated in this [oppressive] fashion, while our buildings are confiscated and ‎our words are censored, you can imagine what they do the regular folks. If these ‎gentlemen [i.e. authorities and officials] know of these actions, and still claim to have ‎freedom, then you are doing the wrong thing. If you do not know what is going, then ‎things are even worse,” Montazeri continued, saying that he prayed to God to give reason ‎and thought to authorities so that what they say and do is based on reason and thought.‎

Some observers believe that because of Montazeri’s age, illness and large number of ‎followers, the regime no longer pursues a plan to suppress the senior cleric, but recent ‎days have demonstrated that measures continue to be taken by authorities against him. ‎Mojtaba Lotfi who was responsible for communications in the ayatollah’s office, was ‎arrested on orders from the special clerical court by agents from Qom’s intelligence ‎bureau, after the critical speech by the ayatollah. Following the arrest, Lotfi’s house was ‎searched.‎

Last week, the house of Mojtaba Feiz, the ayatollah’s son in law was searched as well, ‎but no arrests were made.‎

While some view the recent arrest and searches related to the ayatollah’s recent critical ‎comments about the administration and its policies, others associate the events to the ‎forthcoming presidential elections, and the visits of Montazeri by some reformist ‎presidential hopefuls. Montazeri has called on the reformers to unite in announcing their ‎presidential candidates and present a single nominee.‎

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