Editor’s Note: Yesterday, August 26, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri issued a proclamation in response to a letter dated August 23 by some 293 Iranian intellectuals, journalists, human rights activists and other concerned citizens. Iran Press Watch is working on a translation of that proclamation and will post it shortly. Meanwhile, a description of this remarkable statement was published by Radio Zamaneh, which we share below for our readers’ information.
Ayatollah Montazeri, a senior dissident cleric, condemned the government crackdown on protesters after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and claimed: “The authorities should at least have the courage to announce that this regime in neither a republic nor Islamic and no one is allowed to protest, to express an opinion or to criticize anything.”
Montazeri’s letter, which was in response to 300 activists who had called for the intervention of senior Shiite leadership to resolve the current crisis, was published in Ayatollah Montazeri’s Communications Headquarters. In it, Montazeri claims that he has urged the government on several occasions to desist from violence but to no avail. He presses on for the release of all detainees and calls the mass trials of reformists “a travesty of Islamic law.”
“Islam,” he points out, “is a truly divine religion that in it freedom of opinion and speech are evident and fully transparent…even in the acceptance of this faith, the Quran clearly states that there must be no force or obligation. The way of the Prophet and the Imams was also thus that people in sheer freedom and without any fear of any kind would express their opinions and critique any issue.”
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was a close collaborator of Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and in the government that issued from it. He was set to succeed Ayatollah Khomeini but was put aside over disagreements with government excesses. He was under house arrest for five years for criticizing the government. He now lives in Qom and as a Grand Ayatollah, remains a high authority on Islamic theology and law. He has been a staunch critic of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The government has tried to silence post-election protests against the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June by detaining thousands and violently putting down mass demonstrations. Mass trials of reformist leaders have been set up to parade recanting political activists and televise confessions pointing at a foreign-backed conspiracy to topple the regime. Opposition leaders have denied the charges and spoken out against torture and forceful extraction of confession in prisons.
[Posted on August 27, 2009, at Radio Zamaneh.]