AFP: Iran arrests cleric close to Montazeri

Jan 15, 20100 comments

Fri Jan 15, 5:49 am ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has arrested a cleric close to late dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri amid a fresh crackdown on opposition supporters, a reformist website reported on Friday. Mid-ranking cleric “Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Taghi Khalaji was arrested at his home in the city of Qom on Tuesday,” Norooznews said. “The cause of his arrest is not known yet but he had on several occasions backed protests against election results” which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned for a second term amid allegations of massive fraud. The website described Khalaji as being close to Montazeri and Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei, both strong supporters of the opposition. Thousands of opposition supporters poured into streets of the city of Qom during Montazeri’s December funeral. Since Montazeri passed away in December aged 87, Sanei has come under mounting pressure by hardliners. The website said Khalaji was also a regular speaker at Tehran’s Dar-ol-Zahra, a religious venue run by reformists. The detained cleric’s son, Mehdi Khalaji, is a senior research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and two members of the US House of Representatives condemned the arrest. “The regime’s intimidation and imprisonment of clerics critical of the current government must cease at once,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Howard Berman said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned by reports that the Iranian regime has arrested Ayatollah… Khalaji and confiscated both his and his family’s personal possessions and passports, thereby preventing them from leaving Iran,” they added. Norooznews did not say whether passports and possession had been seized. Iranian authorities have launched a new wave of arrests following bloody protests during Shiite mourning rituals of Ashura on December 27. Prominent journalist and human rights campaigner Emadeddin Baghi was arrested in late December reportedly for interviewing Montazeri, an outspoken critic of the Islamic regime he helped create. Source: