By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
The front page of the daily Vatan-e Emrouz shows Saudi King Abdullah with the headline
"News Of His Death"
An Iranian daily facing a court hearing over a headline deemed offensive to Saudi Arabia has republished the same headline on its front page one day after the paper was warned by Iran's Press Supervisory Board.
"News Of His Death" read the headline of the January 6 front-page story of hard-line Vatan-e Emrouz -- a derogatory, colloquial Persian expression that can be interpreted as "May I Hear News Of His Death."
The story featured a picture of Saudi King Abdullah, who is reportedly being treated for pneumonia. His health has led to speculation about succession in the oil-rich kingdom.
Iranian news agencies reported on January 12 that the Press Supervisory Board warned the newspaper that the headline "damages Iran's ties with its neighbors" and violates "resolutions by Iran's National Security Council."
The reports added that the case will be sent to a court, without specifying a date.
In a letter published by the semiofficial Mehr news agency, Vatan-e Emrouz editor Reza Shakibayi defended the move and said "News Of His Death" covered unprecedented speculation about the health of a leader.
Shakibayi added that the expression was used against "one of the most hostile enemies of the Iranian people" and a person "who has the blood of thousands of innocent people in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and..." on his hands.
He wrote that people in the region -- in countries like Syria and Bahrain -- and countries that export oil, as well as Saudi princes who "hungry for power," are expecting to hear "News Of His Death."
A day later, and in another sign of defiance, Vatan-e Emrouz republished the same headline on its front page.
"Trial Because Of 'News Of His Death'" read the headline on the January 13 front page, again featuring a photograph of the 90-year-old Saudi monarch.
واکنش جالب 'وطن امروز' به دادگاهی شدن بابت تیتر 'خبر مرگش' من چند روز پیش منتقد این تیتر وطنامروز بودم٬ اما الان نه pic.twitter.com/F1cbYlh6LT— Arash Bahmani (@ArashBahmani) January 12, 2015
Authorities have not yet reacted to the move.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have tense relations due to regional rivalry, the war in Syria, oil-export policies, Iran's nuclear program, and other issues.
Since the election of a self-proclaimed moderate as president, Hassan Rohani, Tehran has made attempts to improve ties and lessen tensions.
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