AFP: Iran’s most prominent dissident cleric has complained freedom is being “sacrificed” in the Islamic republic, pointing to the mass disqualification of candidates for March parliamentary elections. TEHRAN (AFP) Iran’s most prominent dissident cleric has complained freedom is being “sacrificed” in the Islamic republic, pointing to the mass disqualification of candidates for March parliamentary elections.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once seen as the successor as supreme leader to revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, also denounced “wrongdoings” which he said were giving Islam a “violent image”.
“People who have paid dearly for the slogans of independence and freedom are being snubbed,” the reformist Etemad newspaper quoted Montazeri as saying.
“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,” he said.
Reformists have complained their chances of success in March 14 parliamentary elections have been wrecked by the mass disqualification of their candidates in preliminary vetting.
A conservative electoral watchdog has reinstated over 800 of hopefuls but reformists complain they are still not able to compete in all constituencies and their chances of mounting a serious challenge are weak.
“Continuing on the present path would weaken the country on an internal and international level,” commented Montazeri.
Angered by the ayatollah’s open criticism of social and political restrictions in the country, Khomeini demoted Montazeri from his position as his designate successor.
The Iranian authorities then put him under house arrest in 1998 from which he was released in January 2003.
From his home in the clerical epicentre of Qom, Montazeri is one of few prominent figures inside Iran who dares to openly criticise the policies of its Islamic leaders.
“People were not to have economic problems and we were not supposed to have innocent people imprisoned after the revolution” that ousted the US-backed shah in 1979, he said.
“But unfortunately, wrongdoings are being committed which portray a violent image of Islam as they are carried out under the name of Islam.”
He also spoke out on relations with the United States, saying Khomeini’s order for a severing of ties with the “Great Satan” was not meant to last for ever.
“Such a ruling is clearly temporary and it is possible to change according to conditions,” Montazeri said.
“It should be examined without party interests and bias whether resuming ties would benefit the country,” he said. “Zionists in America are against relations and in our country some seek their interests in tension and lack of ties.”