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Members of Iran Parliament Condemn Crackdown on Dissidents

The reformist majority in Iran's parliament Sunday condemned the continuing crackdown on dissidents and the recent banning of a liberal opposition group and the jailing of some of its members.

A statement signed by 150 of the 290 members of the Iranian parliament warns that because of a seemingly unending crackdown on reformists, Iran is heading toward a "bottomless abyss."

The latest move in the two year repression of liberals was the conservative Iran Revolutionary Court's order last month for the dissolution of the Iran Freedom Movement (IFM). The IFM came about in the days of the Shah's rule and originally formed part of the government that was hatched after his overthrow in 1979. However, it quickly fell out of favor with the ruling Muslim clergy.

The organization is said to be close to reformist President Mohamed Khatami. However, the president has not yet commented on the banning of the IFM.

More then 30 members of the IFM were rounded up last month and sentenced by the hardline court to jail terms of between four months and 10 years. They were charged with attempting to overthrow the conservative Islamic regime.

In a statement published in Teheran Sunday newspapers, the IFM recommended that President Khatami and members of parliament should quote "not keep silent in this oppressive era but must protest against increasing breaches of the law." The statement claimed the jailed dissidents did not receive a fair trial since it was conducted without a jury and behind closed doors.

In recent months, dozens of other activists have been jailed and more than 80 reformist newspapers closed. The Iranian Association for the Defense of Press Freedoms warns that the mass suspension of newspapers could lead to an exodus of journalists bound for other countries.

Some analysts say the crackdown on the IFM was designed to prevent it from forging a formal alliance with the Iran Participation Front, the country's main pro-reform party.