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Iranian Reformists Send Protest Letter to Supreme Leader - 2004-02-17


Pro-reform members of Iran's parliament have sent a letter to the country's supreme leader, criticizing the exclusion of hundreds of reformist candidates from Friday's election.

The letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charges that institutions under his supervision "have now deprived the people of the most basic right -- the right to choose and be chosen."

Signed by dozens of reform members of parliament, the letter goes on to question whether the 12-member Guardian Council had the ayatollah's permission to disqualify the candidates. The reformists also accuse the powerful Guardian Council of having plotted for more than two years to disqualify the liberal candidates.

The legislators went on to say they believe postponing the elections would have been legal. However, President Mohammed Khatami, although upset about the disqualifications, has said that the elections will go forward Friday.

In another development, Iranian Nobel Peace prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, has criticized the upcoming poll and says she will not vote because she does not know the candidates. She also said she is saddened by the mass disqualifications.

Parliament's 290 seats will be up for grabs in Friday's poll. Voter turn-out is expected to be low. Politicians say the exclusion of many reformists and the low turnout will almost certainly mean a victory by conservatives.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters.

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