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Monday, October 09, 2006

Senior cleric, supporters detained in Iran

TEHRAN, Oct 9: A senior Shia cleric who has challenged Iran�s system of clerical rule was arrested on Sunday after his supporters clashed with police outside his house in the Iranian capital, Iranian news agencies reported.

Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi was detained with several supporters, Iran�s student news agency ISNA quoted the deputy governor of Tehran, Abdollah Rowshan, as saying.

The Iranian authorities are wary of any challenge, particularly from top clerics, to the system of clerical rule that was established after the 1979 Islamic revolution by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

More than 200 of Mr Boroujerdi�s supporters clashed with police using teargas on Saturday during a protest outside his house, newspapers reported.

Some reports said his followers feared the cleric was in imminent danger of arrest.

�All the people, including

Mr Boroujerdi, who ... caused this issue, were arrested,�

Mr Rowshan, who is in charge of security and political affairs, was quoted by ISNA as saying.

Another news agency, ILNA, quoted Mr Rowshan casting doubt on Mr Boroujerdi�s credentials, saying he was not an ayatollah, one of the highest ranks in Shia religious hierarchy.

Police arrested some of the protesters for carrying knives and guns, the office of the Tehran governor said in a statement.

The daily Seday-e-Edalat said some protesters had carried knives and lit fires around Mr Boroujerdi�s house in southern Tehran to prevent police approaching.

A picture showed police in riot geared lined up near a crowd of people and smoke rising up.

Officials could not be reached for comment.

�We believe that our nation is tired of political religion and they want to return to traditional religion,� Mr Boroujerdi told Iran�s labour news agency ILNA on Saturday.

He said he had written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Pope Benedict and other leaders asking them �to make efforts to spread traditional religion�, ILNA reported.

Iran has an elected president and parliament, but final authority lies with the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to �velayat-e-faqih�, the system of rule by a religious legal scholar that was propounded by Khomeini.

The supreme leader is chosen by an assembly of elected clerics.

Some traditional Shia clerics hold that religious leaders should not have a political role.

A senior police officer was quoted as saying Mr Boroujerdi had said he was a representative of the �hidden� 12th Imam, who Shia revere, and this prompted some people to make donations.

�This is misinterpreting religion and is sheer lies,� the police officer was quoted by Seday-e-Edalat as saying.
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