Iran editor faces trial after printing ex-president's photo

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The managing editor of a prominent daily newspaper in Iran will face trial for defying a ban on coverage of Mohammad Khatami, a former reformist president now described by authorities as a "seditionist," the judiciary spokesman said Sunday.

Mahmoud Doaei, a well-respected editor at Ettela'at, one of Iran's oldest newspapers, was summoned Sunday for a second round of questioning before the case is handed to a court for trial, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said.

Ejehi said a ban on covering "seditionist leaders" ordered by Iran's Supreme National Security Council, remains in place. Moderates say there is no official ban and that the order was unilaterally imposed by hard-liners.

"The instruction (banning coverage) remains unchanged," Ejehi said, according to state TV. "Anybody acting against this instruction will be prosecuted the same way Doaei is prosecuted."

Authorities have tolerated newspapers mentioning Khatami in their reports. The indictment against Doaei comes after Ettela'at published an image of Khatami last week along with remarks the former president made in an interview with Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper.

Doaei has said he doesn't consider Khatami a seditionist and that the Supreme National Security Council has never banned coverage of the ex-president. The editor said in reports published Saturday by the semiofficial Fars news agency that he will continue to cover Khatami but has agreed not to publish Khatami's image in the future.

Authorities refer to Khatami and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi as "seditionist leaders." Mousavi and Karroubi were presidential candidates who challenged the result of the 2009 election, saying the re-election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was fraudulent. The challenge led to massive street protests that were crushed by security forces.

Khatami was Iran's president between 1997 and 2005. State media routinely denounce the three leaders while discussing the disputed 2009 election. Khatami is also barred from leaving the country.

Doaei is a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but is a strong supporter of moderates and fellow reformists. He is also a cleric, so the case will go to the Special Clergy Court, with the trial to be held behind closed doors.

Several journalists are behind bars in Iran on various charges, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was detained last year on charges of espionage. Rezaian, who holds dual nationality, has been sentenced, but authorities have yet to provide details.

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