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03/12/2003 - ARREST OF SHOLEH SADI - 2003-03-13

Qasem Sholeh Sadi, prominent lawyer, university professor, and former member of Iran's parliament, was arrested on February 24th by Iranian authorities. According to Amnesty International, he has been permitted only a few brief telephone calls to his family. He was held incommunicado for six days. He has not been permitted to meet with his attorney. He is being detained without any recognizable process of law.

Mr. Sadi was arrested at Tehran airport as he was returning from France. He went to France on December 6th, 2002, following the publication of an open letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. In it, Professor Sadi questioned the legitimacy of Khamenei's rule and criticized his policies. He charged that Ayatollah Khamenei was undermining efforts to establish democracy by repeatedly overruling Iran's parliament.

Citing the extremist Islamic clerical regime's continuing repression of political opponents and its intimidation of the press, Mr. Sadi wrote: "You have stubbornly opposed the reform movement in Iran from its inception." Mr. Sadi pointed out that "a great majority of people are living under the poverty line" because of an economy blighted by corruption and wasteful government spending. The wealth of the Iranian people, he wrote, is being given to state sponsors of terrorism such as Syria and Sudan, and to terrorist groups like Hamas. Mr. Sadi cited Khamenei's denunciations of "a large part of the Iranian people and many dissidents" who favor improved relations with the United States.

Mr. Sadi is one of a growing number of Iranians detained for criticizing Iran's Islamic clerical regime. In November 2002, a university professor, Hashem Aghajari, was sentenced to death for calling for an end to repressive Islamic rule. The sentence brought thousands of demonstrators into the streets. The demonstrators were attacked by police and radical Islamic hoodlums. This public outrage has forced the government to grant Aghajari a new trial.

By detaining Qasem Sholeh Sadi and other political opponents, Iran's hard-line rulers are showing neither strength nor courage, but weakness and fear. They are afraid to let the Iranian people speak. But Iranians will not be silenced.