Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Iran News - Iranian Ebadi blasts regime

Iran News - Iranian Ebadi blasts regime: "Iranian Ebadi blasts regime

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - ©2005 IranMania.com

LONDON, April 26 (IranMania) - Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi hit out at Iran's Islamic regime Monday for barring women from standing for president and said existing vetting procedures meant "free and healthy" elections were impossible.

Ahead of the June 17 presidential election, the Guardians Council -- a hardliner-controlled watchdog which screens all candidates -- has said it is sticking by its interpretation of a key word in Iran's constitution that has long been taken as meaning that only men can be president.

"I object to the Guardians Council's interpretation of the word 'rejal'," Ebadi -- Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2003 -- told a news conference in Tehran.

The disputed word, which comes from Arabic, could also be interpreted as meaning "personalities" in Persian and this is the translation used in some English translations of the constitution.

Aside from barring women, the Guardians Council can also weed out candidates it deems to be unsuitable. This power was used to devastating effect prior to the February 2004 parliamentary elections, when nearly all pro-reform candidates were disqualified.

The polls were subsequently won by conservatives and hardliners.

In the last presidential elections in 2001, the Guardians Council whittled down a list of some 900 would-be candidates to just 10.

"The approbatory supervision by the Guardians Council... negates a free and healthy election," said a statement issued by the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, a group headed by Ebadi.

"Only a government that has been chosen by a free and healthy election can have people abide by its orders," the statement warned.

So far only one woman is trying to challenge the Guardians Council and stand -- conservative MP Rafat Bayat.

Meanwhile Monday, top cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani signalled he was poised to announce his candidacy, criticising what he said was bickering between the current contenders.

"I was expecting that the social climate in the country would move towards unity, and that the personalities and political groups would prioritise the interests of the country and the regime," the powerful cleric said in a statement.

"If the feudal rivalries continue, my national and Islamic duty obliges me to be a candidate," added the charismatic politician, who served as Iran's president from 1989 to 1997.

Rafsanjani is currently the head of the Expediency Council -- Iran's top political arbitration body -- and has for months been openly mulling a bid to take back the Islamic republic's number two job when the country goes to the polls on June 17.

He has been presenting himself as a pragmatic conservative detached from Iran's right-left rivalries.

The race has so far been marked by the absence of a strong pro-reform candidate to succeed incumbent moderate Mohammad Khatami -- who has served the maximum two consecutive terms allowed -- as well as divisions in the conservative camp.

Iran's main conservative alliance, the Council for Coordinating Forces in the Islamic Revolution (CCFIR), has chosen the hardline former state television boss Ali Larijani as its choice to contest the polls.

But two of his chief rivals, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and populist ex-police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, have refused to pull out, as has former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai."