Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ayatollah Faces Star Chamber Trial

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Khalaji, who is in Evin Prison for expressing his views, faces trial and possible execution in the Star Chamber. He has never held any government position, and before the 1979 revolution just over 20 years ago, he was close to Ayatollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Experts say that his arrest was arbitrary, and that it violates Article 34 of the Iran constitution. The criticisms that Ayatollah Khalaji expressed were very mild, saying that he disapproved of the violence against the protesters, but he never went so far as the late Ayatollah Montazeri.

Says Mehdi Khalaji, son of the prominent 62-year-old cleric:

“My father is an expert in Islamic and religious studies…My father has said that Islam does not allow for political prisoners; neither the Prophet nor Imam Ali ever put anyone in prison for expressing their opinions. My father believes that the regime must obtain people’s satisfaction and cannot rule with force. He does not belong to any groups, not even groups within the Seminary, no political or even religious organizations. He is not related to any groups or factions and he does not engage in political activities. The only reason he is in prison is because of his opinions.”

Since the elections six months ago, literally hundreds of journalists, political figures, bloggers, and womens’ rights activists have been arrested, as have thousands of protesters. They are detained in order to curtail the right to speak freely, which directly counters Iran’s laws which protect freedoms of expression and conscience. When a government breaks its own laws, it can not longer be considered a government, but is instead a form of tyranny.