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Iran: Intellectuals Petition Ayatollah Khamenei For Reforms

Tehran, 15 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Some 350 reformist intellectuals today urged Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an open letter to end Islamic repression and steer the country towards democracy. The letter, quoted by agencies, warns that authoritarian methods and further violence against dissenters "will bear no result but exacerbate the crisis." The letter says such measures are "illegal" and lack "popular, religious, and moral legitimacy."

Around a dozen journalists have been arrested since last month's violent protests against clerical rule and one Canadian photographer died in custody. An estimated 4,000 students were detained.

The letter says its signatories believe Iran must now move away from a despotic interpretation of Islam or elect for democracy, "to save the country."

The letter is the latest in a string of appeals for reform addressed to Iran's unelected leaders. Last month, 250 intellectuals wrote an open letter accusing the religious establishment of usurping the place of God.