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Iranian woman reformist jailed

Khatami speaks while Parliament member Sohila Jelodarzadeh, top, looks on  

TEHRAN, Iran -- The Iranian parliament was suspended for an hour after women politicians protested at the jailing of a colleague by the conservative judiciary.

Fatemeh Haqiqatjoo, one of Iran's most outspoken reformist members of parliament, was sentenced to 22 months in jail on Tuesday for comments made against clerics.

The court said the female politician from Tehran had been convicted of "misinterpreting the late Imam Khomeini's words, propagation against the Islamic system and its foundations, insulting the members of the constitutional watchdog Guardians Council, and insulting the head of Tehran's revolutionary court."

Ten of her 11 female colleagues prepared to walk out of the parliament on hearing the news, The Associated Press reported.

They were only persuaded to return by Haqiqatjoo herself, when she argued parliamentary business was more important.

Message Board: Iran  

Before parliament was consideration of President Mohammed Khatami's Cabinet list.

It was the third day of debating the names put forward by the reformist president on August 12.

Reformists in parliament have criticised Khatami's list, saying some ministers lacked credentials to push popular social and political reforms.

Hardliners, who have opposed Khatami's drive for more freedoms and relaxing Islamic social rules on Iranians, said the proposed Cabinet is not paying enough attention to economic development.

Each proposed minister must receive a vote of confidence.

Haqiqatjoo has been released on bail and can appeal against the verdict, but if she loses her appeal, she has to begin serving her sentence while her case is reviewed by a higher court.

She has been an outspoken critic of the conservative opponents of Khatami and has been a supporter of reformist journalists and student movements.

Some of the charges against her stemmed from recent statements made by her on the campus of Tehran University on the anniversary of the July 1999 student uprising.

She was briefly detained in March after she denounced the judiciary for the violent arrest of a female journalist.

Her conviction is likely to start another debate regarding the issue of immunity for members of parliament.

Politicians believe that they should have immunity from prosecution, but the conservative dominated judiciary has a different interpretation of the constitution and has filed suits against several members of parliament.

Haqiqatjoo is the first member of the legislature to be convicted in court.

• Presidency of Iran

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