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Iranian court tries pollster for backing U.S. ties

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    17:41 31/12/2002 Last update - 17:42 31/12/2002 http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=247084 Iranian court tries pollster for backing
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2002
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      17:41 31/12/2002 Last update - 17:42 31/12/2002


      Iranian court tries pollster for backing U.S. ties

      By Reuters

      TEHRAN - The trial of a pollster charged with acting against national security by publishing a survey showing most
      Iranians wanted talks with arch-foe the United States opened on Tuesday in an Iranian court.

      Behrouz Geranpayeh, a reformist and head of a polling company, is on trial with four others in the latest such
      case against pollsters.

      The trials have become a new battleground between President Mohammad Khatami's reformists and powerful
      conservatives who have blocked his efforts to bring about more open, responsible government in the Islamic Republic.

      Khatami's government has lambasted the trials as politically-motivated and said the pollsters' activities had been
      cleared by the Intelligence Ministry.

      Geranpayeh sat in the court wearing a grey prison uniform as he listened to the charges against him and the other

      "Their measures aimed to create a rift between the people and officials to shake the basis of the religious system
      by exaggerating some trivial matters," the state prosecutor said.

      Geranpayeh was arrested and held in custody after the release of a survey in September which showed three-quarters
      of Iranians favoured resuming talks with the United States.

      Washington broke ties with Iran after radical students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held dozens
      of diplomats hostage for 444 days.

      Any suggestion of talks with Washington which has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil," is highly sensitive. But
      Iran's reformers have broken that taboo, arguing it is better to talk to Washington than become a target in the U.S. war
      on terror.

      Eight pollsters have faced trial so far, including the five involved in this case. Analysts say more arrests could

      Ahmad Bourqani, a reformist parliamentarian, is being also tried in this case on charges of illegally spending
      state funds and complicity in misusing the Culture Ministry's logo. He was deputy culture minister four years ago.

      The other defendants in this case are: Haleh Geranhemat, an employee at the polling center, charged with acting
      against national security; Vahid Sinai, from parliament's research center which ordered the poll, charged with
      fabricating survey results; and Mehdi Abasi, of Iran's state-run news agency IRNA, who is charged with illegally
      publishing the results of the survey to incite public opinion.

      The trials come as Khatami is locked in a struggle with his conservative adversaries by pressing for two laws to
      strengthen his powers over the hardline judiciary and end a conservative body's veto power over election candidates.

      Khatami has threatened to resign if he feels his reforms have lost their way. Many analysts say that far from
      being cowed by Khatami's threat, conservatives may be seeking to crush the reform movement and are preparing to seize
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