Iranian moderates, mullahs clash over Bazargan's paper
The power struggle in Iran between the Islamic fundamentalists and the Muslim moderates has erupted once again after a shaky truce of about three weeks. This time fundamentalists controlling the judiciary have pounced on Mizan, the newspaper owned by former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, and closed it down. They have also arrested the paper's editor in chief, Reza Sadr, a former minister in Bazargan's provisional government after the revolution.
An official in the prosecutor general's office said the paper had been engaged in "disrupting the internal security, slander, and insults." He referred to an editorial published a few days ago in the newspaper.
The editorial said that the commission controlling Iran's state radio and television was made up of communists. (The claim is credible, to judge by the large number of procommunist movies shown on the state television in recent months.)
Bazargan himself dismissed these remarks as "excuses." Mizan, he said, "neither created disturbances nor insulted anyone."
The paper in fact had become a rallying point for Bazargan's Iran Freedom Movement. When its editor in chief was arrested, the newspaper offices were besieged by telephone calls from the party supporters offering donations to have Reza Sadr freed on bail.
Mr. Sadr himself has reportedly refused to accept freedom on bail, as a token of protest against his arrest.
The paper was closed a day after Sadr's arrest. It revealed in the last isse before it was closed that he was a member of the Revolutionary Council that ran the country before a constitutional government and parliament came into existence last year.
He was also a former student of Ayatollah Khomeini in Qom before quitting the clergy to study chemistry and business administration.
Khomeini himself was said to have intervened directly when Mizan was attacked and occupied by a group of fundamentalist ruffians during a religious holiday last Nov. 18.
The Imam ordered the newspaper's offices returned to its owners.
Fears were being expressed in Tehran April 18 that Inqilab-i Islami, owned by Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, may be next in line for closure. The paper said in an editorial April 18 that it saw no reason under the Iranian press law to close Mizan.
It also ran in bold headlines a remark by Bani-Sadr, "Strangulation of the press is a step toward oppression."
Observers believe the closure of Mizan may be linked to the trial of former Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Amir Entezam, also a member of Bazargan's Iran Freedom Movement. Mizan came out strongly in support of Entezan, printing full details of the trial.
Some of the remarks made by Entezan himself and by Bazargan in the court may have embarrassed the fundamentalist authorities. The paper also editorially criticized the revolutionary prosecutor general for drawing up spy charges against Entezam without having an official translation made of documents on which the charges were based.
The documents were said to have been found by militants occupying the US Embassy in Tehran.
Following the Mizan editorial the revolutionary prosecutor-general asked for the trial to be suspended while an official translation of the documents was made.
If the trial has to be canceled after the official translations are made, or if Entezam is acquitted, it wo uld cast doubt on other trials based on similar documents.