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Iran: Dissident Cleric Free After Five Years Of House Arrest

Qom, Iran; 30 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- An influential dissident cleric in Iran, Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, left his home today after being under house arrest for five years. A crowd of supporters greeted the 80-year-old religious leader outside his home in Qom as he and two sons left to go to a mosque.

Supporters of Montazeri, including more than 100 members of the Iranian parliament, have been calling for authorities to ease the restrictions on him amid concerns over his health.

Montazeri was put under house arrest in 1997 for challenging the institution of supreme clerical rule in Iran. Montazeri was once in line to succeed former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but was later rejected by Khomeini for criticizing the execution of political prisoners and human rights abuses.