Iran General NewsIran arrests outspoken cleric who opposes religious rule

Iran arrests outspoken cleric who opposes religious rule

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New York Times: A senior cleric who opposes religious rule of Iran and a number of his followers were arrested Sunday after clashes with the riot police over the weekend, news agencies reported. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: October 9, 2006

TEHRAN, Oct. 8 — A senior cleric who opposes religious rule of Iran and a number of his followers were arrested Sunday after clashes with the riot police over the weekend, news agencies reported.

About 1,000 supporters of the cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeni Boroujerdi, gathered outside his home and on the streets leading to it on Saturday, the semiofficial ILNA news agency reported. They were there apparently to protect him from arrest and to protest the arrests over the past month of other supporters who had tried to protect him after a court had summoned him.

Another news agency, Entekhab, also reported that Ayatollah Boroujerdi and some supporters had been arrested. News reports quoted officials as saying that members of the crowd came armed with knives and daggers, and the reports said the riot police used tear gas to disperse them.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi said that he had written to the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, to the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and to Pope Benedict XVI and others seeking protection and asking them “to make efforts to spread traditional religion,” separate from politics, ILNA reported.

“I believe people are fed up with political religion and want traditional religion to return,” ILNA quoted Ayatollah Boroujerdi as saying.

Protesters who were interviewed on opposition radio and satellite television channels Saturday said that the supporters of Ayatollah Boroujerdi were prepared to die in his defense.

The Iranian authorities are wary of any challenge, particularly from top clerics, to the system of clerical rule that was established after the 1979 Islamic revolution by the revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Iran has an elected president and Parliament, but final authority lies with the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian authorities had charged Ayatollah Boroujerdi with lacking sufficiently senior religious credentials to speak out on the matter. They also accused him of sacrilege.

He had been summoned over a month ago to the Special Court for the Clergy, but refused to surrender.

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