Reprinted from

Jailed Iranian Cleric Appeals to Pope

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

PARIS -- A senior Iranian cleric, jailed for opposing the Islamic regime in Iran, has appealed to the Pope in a letter smuggled out of Iran by his supporters and made available to NewsMax.

"Time is running out for me as I have been sentenced to death," wrote Ayatollah Hossein Kazemini Borujerdi in the letter, obtained this week from sources close to the jailed cleric in Europe.

"This is my last plea for help."

In addition to the Pope, Borujerdi addressed his appeal to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the president of the European Parliament and to international human rights organizations, asking them to intervene with the Iranian authorities to prevent his execution.

Borujerdi was placed under house arrest in July 2006 after addressing a massive gathering of his followers inside Iran.

Last October, anti-riot troops stormed his family compound, using water cannons to overpower demonstrators who had gathered in his defense. He was then taken to Section 209 of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, which is reserved for political prisoners.

Since then, he has been beaten and tortured repeatedly, supporters in Europe told NewsMax. He has been denied the right to a lawyer or visitation rights.

The senior cleric fell afoul of the authorities for refusing to acknowledge the role of Islam in politics, and for speaking out against the doctrine of velayat-e faqih, absolute clerical rule.

In his letter, he called the Iranian regime "unlawful."

In a clear attack on Iran's ruling clerics, he wrote, "People who use religion for their own benefits and create their own rules are blasphemous and are destroying the people's belief in their God."

Borujerdi belongs to the "quiestist" school of Shia Islam, which rejects the role of Islam in government.

Associates say he has received support from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq, and from Grand Ayatollah Sadegh Rouhani, who has been under house arrest in Qom, Iran since 1986 for similarly rejecting the authority of the Islamic regime.

Iran's Shiite clergy remains divided between a militant school, headed originally by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and the quiestists. Both groups supported the revolution against the Shah in 1978-1979, but they parted ways when Khomeini seized power and established a government ruled by unelected clerics.

Over the past 28 years, most senior ayatollahs who opposed the regime have been confined to house arrest and have seldom spoken in public.

Borujerdi is the first senior cleric to be actually jailed since 1979, when Khomeini locked up rival Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari.

Shariatmadari's son, Hassan, today lives in Germany. Shortly after Borujerdi's arrest, he told the Persian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that many of Iran's top clerics reject any role of religion in politics, but have lacked Borujerdi's courage to attack the regime in public.

"Ayatollah Borujerdi has expressed the demand for the separation of religion from politics very openly — to a wide audience and with boldness," Hassan Shariatmadari said. "This is something that the establishment doesn't like."

Borujerdi was condemned to death last month by the Special Court for the Clergy during a closed hearing without witnesses that lasted just several hours.

He was accused of speaking against the Quran, making up a false god, speaking against the Iranian government, holding illegal gatherings, and other crimes.

Supporters of the jailed cleric in Europe told NewsMax that the allegations were "an excuse to cover up what the regime wants to do to him."

His execution was originally scheduled for June 25, but the regime put it off after protests from U.S.-based human rights organizations.

In his letter, Borujerdi said he wanted human rights organizations to visit Iran "to see for themselves how people are being forced to live."

He asked that they be allowed to get involved in the judicial proceedings against him "to hear for themselves how I am being treated."

The jailed cleric said that he and his family had been tortured since October 2006. "The torture in Evin Prison was unbearable," he wrote. "I was under the regime's sharp razor."

The Iranian authorities have stepped up repression in recent months, cracking down on women demonstrators, students, and visiting Iranian-American scholars.

On July 10, armed thugs abducted well-known labor leader Mansoor Osanloo as he stepped off a bus in Tehran, shouting to passersby that he was "an enemy of Islam."

In northern Iran, a man convicted of adultery was condemned to death by stoning, a particularly barbaric punishment.

Hassan Daioleslam, an independent Iranian-American scholar, believes the regime is stepping up human rights abuses as a negotiating tactic with the West, in hopes of getting Western sanctions lifted.

"In a nutshell, the message we're hearing from the regime's lobby is that the more the West pressures the regime, the more violent it becomes," Daioleslam told NewsMax. "Hence, lift the pressure" and the abuses will stop.

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