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Reformist Islamic Revolution Mujahideen Organization rues Shahroudi's response to majlis

2/9/01 Tehran, Feb 8, IRNA -- A pro-reform Iranian party raised "regret and surprise" Thursday over the reaction to a criticizing letter by a special parliamentary committee of the Judiciary Head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. Last Thursday, Shahroudi denounced reformist MPs, saying they weakened parliament by defending "westernized" journalists and other liberals.

In an open letter to Shahroudi, the Islamic Revolution Mujahideen Organization said, "Unexpectedly, while all were awaiting to hear expert responses, the highest judicial official reacted politically which did not befit him."

It attacked the judiciary's half-hearted handling of the case against the dissident activist Ezzatollah Sahabi and the student leader Ali Afshari, both jailed on similar charges. "... It's not clear where they are and under what conditions they are held."

Afshari went missing some 15 days after being sent into "temporary" confinement for a campus speech he made after his return from Germany last year. Students say hardliners in the judiciary want him to "confess".

Last week, Shahroudi wrote to the majlis, "MPs should promote Islamic values before the concerns of a limited number of Westernized people." He accused the MPs of "lowering the moral prestige" of the parliament.

His letter came in response to a January 24 letter from 150 reformist MPs expressing their "deep concern" over "the illegal actions" of the judiciary, citing crackdowns on the reformist press and legal action against liberal deputies.

The conservative-dominated courts have been running an offensive against the reformist movement headed by President Mohammad Khatami.

Some 20 publications have been suspended and 10 journalists jailed for various professional offenses.

In the meantime, the head of Tehran's justice administration Abbasali Alizadeh accused the MPs of acting as "spokesmen for criminals" by criticizing judges' treatment of jailed reformers.

"We are afraid that the repetition of the claims (by reformist MPs) has turned them into spokesmen for a group of suspects and criminals," he said in an open letter to the speaker of parliament Mehdi Karroubi.

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