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Ayatollah Montazeri: No freedom in Iran

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TEHRAN, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Iran's highest-ranking Iranian cleric believes the country's Guardian Council is manipulating the law, and says it is a betrayal of the revolution.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution along with Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, expressed his views on the conflict between reformists and conservatives in Iran, between the Majlis (Iranian parliament) and the Guardian Council, which recently rejected 3,600 of the 8,157 candidates for the coming election on Feb. 20.

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In a recent interview to the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, Montazeri, a founding father of the first constitution of Iran after the revolution, said, "instead of free elections, we have a selection made by one faction of the electoral contest. All of this is illegal and anti-constitutional."

Initially designated by Khomeini as his successor, Montazeri was marginalized and held under house arrest from 1997 to 2003, accused of having criticized the current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

He is now free and lives in the holy Shi'ite city of Qum, but complained about the lack of freedom, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported.

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"Today in Iran, there is no freedom of the press. They have closed more than a hundred publications; honest and knowledgeable people have been deprived of their jobs. They have reduced newspapers to self-censorship. For instance, they are forbidden to write about me. If they do, they (the editors) are immediately summoned. There is repression, as before the Revolution. ..."

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