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Iran: Four MPs defy arrest threats over unrest, start protest sit-in

Four Iranian MPs defied judiciary officials' threats to arrest some parliamentarians on charges of provoking recent unrest and started a two-day 'self-imprisonment' in parliament in protest to the way police treated students, IRNA reported from Tehran.

"The aim of this (protest) session is to defend legal processes and in this way, we are intending to announce our protest to and worries about the way students are confronted," one of the protestors who represents Tehran in Majlis, Meysam Saeedi, said.

Three other protesting MPs - Fatemeh Haqiqat-Joo, Reza Yousefian and Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini - blasted judiciary and police officials for allegedly failing to deal with 'vigilantes' for attacking students.

"All high-ranking officials believe in confronting vigilante forces, but what we see today is the lack of confrontation with those individuals who have taken up a free-wheeling approach," Saeedi said.

"Through our sit-in, we are intending to give an ultimatum to officials and announce our loyalty to the promises we gave and the slogans we chanted during elections," Yousefian said.

He threatened that they kept their options open, including for resignation, if their demands were not met.

"We have set a time frame for our sit-in and we are trying to come to a conclusion through coordination and consultation with one another. But, that (resignation) will be a serious option for us," Yousefian added.

The MP from southern Shiraz said he was surprised by police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf's statements that some parliamentarians had instigated the riots.

"This is our question too in order to know who these deputies are and what are (judiciary and police officials') evidence to back up their accusations. Technicalities will not cure any ailment," he said.

"We have asked Mr. Qalibaf to present his evidence. We have also asked (Parliament Speaker Mehdi) Karroubi about this, but we think at the end of the day this is just a ploy," Haqiqat-Joo said.

The Persian daily Kayhan on Saturday cited Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi as saying that the judiciary would deal with any MP who was found guilty of instigating recent unrest.

The warning serves a serious challenge to parliament deputies who enjoy immunity from prosecution in their own words, as long as in office

Haqiqat-Joo urged President Khatami to "take firmer action for the release of students, since "we think the measures taken so far are few and the students expect more from Mr. Khatami".

"The president, in view of the 22-million votes he won (in presidential elections) and the popularity which he has among students, must take more steps with respect to the recent arrests and confrontations made," she added.

The Iranian president, who came into office first in 1997 on the back of an overwhelming student support to uphold the rule of law and establish a civil society, has backed students, including their rights to protest.

"If we accept democracy, it requires that protests are also made," the cleric has said, adding "what divides democratic communities from undemocratic societies is the existence of such protests".

Head of Tehran Justice Department, Abbasali Alizadeh, said Saturday that some of the arrested would be tried next week.

Media have quoted the state prosecutor general, Abdon-Nabi Namazi, as saying that police had detained 4,000 people across the country in connection with the unrest.

The riots followed a peaceful gathering of students in protest to perceived privatization of state universities, which officials have rejected, and took an ugly turn when vigilantes attacked students.

State officials, including Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said that Washington was behind riots in the Islamic Republic and accused it of "blatant interference in the country's internal affairs" through cheering the unrest.

Saeedi said, "We strongly condemn American interference in our internal affairs and we consider any foreign interference as detrimental to the democratic process in our country.

"Whenever America has interfered in Iran's internal affairs, the problems of our people have increased," he added.

Yousefian, however, rejected some officials' claims about the role of western media in the unrest through hyping it up.

"The propaganda of foreign media does not have so much impact to instigate the recent unrest. The main culprits, instead, are a handful of people who like to remain in power," he said.

The government has flayed vigilantes for 'crimes' committed during their attacks on students and urged the judiciary to confront them.

The worst such attack, press said, was plain-clothes vigilantes' raid of a university dormitory in Tarasht, west of Tehran, where they violently beat up students and destroyed their personal belonging.

... Payvand News - 6/29/03 ... --

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