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Iran: Dissident Cleric Publicly Criticizes Government

Tehran, 17 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- An Iranian dissident cleric today publicly criticized the government in an address after spending five years under house arrest. Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi addressed some 300 students in the city of Qom, some 130 kilometers southwest of Tehran.

Montazeri-Najafabadi, once the designated successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran -- said that most of Iran's population is not happy with the ruling establishment, and that the matter "should be put to popular vote."

Montazeri also criticized the government's crackdown on writers and intellectuals. He also called for the independence of religious schools from government control.

Montazeri was put under house arrest in 1997 after giving a public statement in which he said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was an incompetent leader.