Bad news for the Iranian authorities, who tried to dodge the issues Borujerdi addressed by accusing him of claiming to represent the Mahdi: This cleric seems to have a fairly significant following, and his arrest won’t end the discussion about the separation of clerical and civil authority. “Iran arrests controversial cleric and followers,” from AFP:
TEHERAN – Iran has arrested a controversial cleric and some of his followers who advocate separating religion and poitics, a taboo in Islamic Iran, after clashes with police, the student ISNA agency said on Sunday.
Hundreds of supporters of Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Borujerdi had gathered on Saturday around his house in Teheran to protest the arrest of a number of the Shiite cleric’s followers and restrictions imposed on him, press reports said.
“The ones behind Saturday”s unrest were arrested. All including, Mr Borujerdi, have been handed over to judiciary officials,” said a security official in Teheran governor’s office, identified only by his last name, Roshan.
Roshan said the police had previously sought to contain these “sectarian elements” but yesterday “they were carrying Molotov cocktails, knives, swords and clubs to confront the police.”
“They even (for a time) took members of the force hostage and threw acid on policemen and vandalized public property,” he said, adding “calm has been restored” in the crowded neighborhood in downtown Teheran.
A report in reformist Hambastegi daily said the Special Court for Clergy had recently tried to arrest Borujerdi but faced by resistance by his supporters.
Questioning a pillar of the Islamic republic, the ayatollah has said “we believe people have grown tired of political religion and they want to return to traditional religion. “The objective of my followers and me is in defending traditional religion,” the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted the ayatollah as saying.
But the deputy head of Teheran police, Commander Nasser Shabani, accused the ayatollah of claiming to be the representative of the Shiites” “hidden” twelfth Imam, Mahdi, and misinterpreting religion.
“A person has gathered some naive people around to pledge donations and have their wishes come true, which is a sheer lie and distortion of religion,” he told ILNA.
The protesters were reportedly shouting slogans such as “religious freedom is our right” and “freedom is our undeniable right”, and carried banners that said “we are ready to be martyred to defend traditional religion”.
His aims breach a taboo in Islamic Iran — a theocracy in which the all-powerful supreme leader is a cleric chosen by a top Shiite clerical assembly.