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IRAN: Move afoot to restore Rafsanjani to powerful Friday prayers post

March 10, 2010 |  2:51 pm

There's a new move afoot to get Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani back to the pulpit during Tehran's Friday prayers.

According to a report Wednesday in the reformist daily newspaper Bahar (in Persian), the dean of Tehran's elite Imam Sadegh University (where many of the leaders of Iran's intelligence and security apparatus get trained) got the ball rolling in a speech last week.

"I still listen to Mr. Rafsanjani," Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the dean, said along the sidelines of an Islamic unity conference. "Those who want to omit Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani are not important."

Bahar reported Wednesday that sources close to the government have given word that Rafsanjani is set to return to the Friday prayers, where he has been absent since a momentous July 17 sermon sparked a massive anti-government protest. Since the revolt, Rafsanjani was cut from the Friday prayers roster, a move which signaled the refusal of the hard-line administration to tolerate the slightest hint of political dissent.

But that seems to be over.

"The absence of Hashemi Rafsanjani is over," the article quoted a pro-government website as saying.

The article said "the suggestion to return Rafsanjani has been met with pro and counter-arguments" but that it is seriously being considered.

The powerful cleric, who heads government bodies that oversee the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and mediate disputes between parliament and the presidency, has been cut out of the inner circle of power since the political unrest that followed the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

Rafsanjani, in a meeting with Tehran city council members Wednesday, spoke about the importance of democracy in Iran's unique system.

"Islam lends special credence to people's role within government," he was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students News Agency. "Today in the light of growing media, any government devoid of a popular basis will not live long. Delegation of affairs to people can help governments overcome the bulk of their problems in running state affairs."

Meanwhile, the head of Tehran's Justice Department, Ali-Reza Avai, said the Tehran revolutionary tribunal has filed a lawsuit against Rafsanjani's two children, Mehdi and Faezeh, both considered strong opposition supporters.

"The legal action against the children of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani is within the framework of justice," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as saying. "Hopefully, these judicial cases will not be politicized so that they will be accorded due process of law."

-- Los Angeles Times

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