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Moderate Iranian Activist Pardoned by Country's Supreme Leader - 2002-11-05

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has pardoned a prominent moderate who had been sentenced to five years in jail for anti-Islamic propaganda. The release of the former interior minister comes at a time when the reformist movement in Iran is under attack from conservatives.

What makes the pardon of Abdullah Nouri important for reformers in Iran is the fact that many Iranians view the former interior minister as a potential leader of the reformist movement.

Three years ago Mr. Nouri, the director of a daily Iranian newspaper, was sentenced to five years in prison on several charges, including propaganda against the Islamic system.

During his nationally televised trial he openly discussed such things as the possibility of moderating Iran's policy toward Israel.

He was sentenced to prison by Iran's special religious court, which the reformist movement wants to abolish.

Iran's news agency says Mr. Nouri was pardoned because of the death last week of his brother, Ali Reza Nouri, a reformist parliamentarian who was killed in a car accident.

Mr. Nouri's release comes at a time when the reformist movement in Iran is facing stiff opposition from conservatives who have managed to shut down dozens of newspapers and jail outspoken political opponents.