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Parliament speaker reiterates Khatami's constitutional rights

Tehran, Oct 21, IRNA -- Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi on Sunday reiterated President Mohammad Khatami's constitutional authority which has led to a rare exchange of notices between the executive and judiciary heads.

"The president has a special place in the constitution," he said at an open session of the parliament, adding the Iranian constitution has tasked the president to guard it.

Karroubi's statements come following a controversy over the constitutional rights of the president, which came to the spotlight after Khatami protested to the courts' prosecution of MPs, saying the practice contravened a political immunity which the Iranian Constitution has provided for the deputies.

The notice prompted Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to respond, calling Khatami's letter "a surprise." "Since judges, according to the Constitution and ordinary laws as well as the jurisprudential principles, are independent in their interpretation of the law and issuing verdicts, nobody -- not even the judiciary chief -- has the right to impose its interpretation of the law on judges," Ayatollah Shahroudi said in part of his letter to President Khatami.

Karroubi said that the Iranian president, "as the second highest authority of the country" after the supreme Leader, has the right to supervise the proper execution of laws.

"No matter who is the president, whether Mohammad Khatami or someone else, he should act according to his constitutional duty," he said.

President Khatami had protested Tehran courts' rulings on MPs from central Hamedan province Hossein Loqmanian, and from Tehran Fatemeh Haqiqatjou, saying deputies should not be arrested or put on trial for their opinions.

Haqiqatjou was sentenced to 22 months in jail in August after she made allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners by court and prison authorities.

Her colleague Loqmanian has been sentenced to 13 months in jail for slandering the judiciary. A third, Issa Mousavinejad, has been given one year in prison for his role in public unrest in western Iran last year. All three are still free pending appeals.

Constitution, only channel to settle disputes: daily

Tehran, Oct 21, IRNA -- `Tehran Times' on Sunday stressed that the Constitution is the only channel to settle disputes and differences that arise among the three branches of the government, over the powers of the president, the legal immunity of Majlis representatives and their responsibility to supervise the enforcement of the laws.

The English-language daily was referring to the first round of disputes that was launched after the Judiciary took legal action against some MPs, which prompted an exchange of letters between President Khatami and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi.

However, although these differences and disputes are quite normal in any political system, the Constitutions of all political systems nevertheless offer solutions to settle such bickering and misunderstandings, asserted the daily.

However, it decried the efforts of some political factions in the country to "circumvent the Constitution and propose solutions to such disputes that do not fall within the framework of the Constitution."

Regarding the prosecution of some MPs that gave rise to such differences, the daily noted that "each of the three government branches refer to some articles of the Constitution to support their views."

For example, it said, "Articles 84 and 86 of the Constitution" is usually referred to, while proving the legal immunity of the Majlis deputies.

However, the paper added, most legal experts do not consider the immunity of the representatives to be absolute, as they refer to "Articles 19 and 20 of the Constitution," which stipulates that all citizens have equal rights.

Nevertheless, the main point of difference is whether the representatives could make any comments they like and still enjoy legal immunity, pondered the article.

In other words, the question is, "can a Majlis deputy insult, slander and accuse individuals, officials or government organs within the framework of their duties as representatives of people?" asked the daily.

The only way to find an answer to the above question as well as their similar questions is to refer to the Constitution itself, suggested the paper.

According to Article 98, "expounding the Constitution is the task of the Guardian Council, and any interpretation of the law should be approved by three-fourths of its members," noted the daily.

In this light, it is only the Guardian Council's verdict that can easily put an end to the disputes on the extent of immunity of Majlis deputies, asserted the daily.

Furthermore, it noted, paragraphs 7 and 8 of Article 110 of the Constitution clearly states, "if the disputes between the three branches of government cannot be solved through legal means, it falls within the powers of the Leader to settle these disputes through the Expediency Council," rejecting the suggestions of some political circles to hold a referendum on the issue.

Considering that the Constitution has offered clear solutions to such issues, "the suggestion only indicates that some circles are reluctant to comply with the law," warned the daily.

But, the rule of law cannot be established in society, "unless all factions and political circles, regardless of their leanings and affiliations, respect and abide by the law," concluded the paper.

... Payvand News - 10/21/01 ... --

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