Tehran, Jan. 11 (Reuters): Iran’s hardline judiciary banned today a reformist daily newspaper over a caricature which clerics said insulted the Islamic Republic’s founding father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the official Irna news agency said.
A special court ordered the closure of the pro-reform Hayat-e No newspaper owned by the brother of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The newspaper this week published a caricature of a frowning cleric with thick eyebrows sitting on the floor while being squashed by a huge thumb. It has provoked outrage among several of the country’s senior hardline clerics who have said it bears a clear resemblance to Khomeini, who died in 1989, ten years after the Islamic revolution.
“The newspaper’s manager and a number of publishers have been summoned to court for interrogations. The outcome of the investigation will be made public soon,” Irna quoted a statement by the court as saying today. Islamic theology schools called a nationwide rally tomorrow to protest against the caricature, although Hayat-e No has said the drawing was not meant to depict anyone in particular.
Announcing the protest, the Association of Seminary Teachers in the holy city of Qom said the caricature was “an insult to the founder of the Islamic Republic”.
Other clerics said those responsible for the drawing had insulted the whole country.
“Imam Khomeini is the most sacred name in the (Islamic) revolution and ... anyone who insults the Imam and the revolution, has insulted the people of Iran,” Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani said in comments broadcast on state television.
Hayat-e No’s publisher Hadi Khamenei is politically distanced from his older brother and an outspoken supporter of President Mohammad Khatami's reformist policies.