TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian hard-liners shut down two leading reformist papers Saturday, including one run by the brother of Iran's supreme leader, for publishing a 65-year-old cartoon they said insulted the late founder of the country's Islamic republic.
The Special Clergy Court ordered the Farsi-language Hayat-e-Nou closed and summoned editor Hadi Khamenei to face unspecified charges. The cartoon, published Wednesday, showed the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini being crushed by a hand.
Khamenei is a leading pro-reform lawmaker who opposes the policies of his elder brother, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini in 1989.
The younger Khamenei deposited a bond and remained free, the state-run Iranian radio said.
The court also ordered the prosecution of all people involved in publishing the cartoon.
The Special Clergy Court is dealing with the younger Khamenei's case because of his status as a cleric. Reformers do not recognize the court and say it is unconstitutional.
The reformist daily Bahar also was closed by the Press Court, which ruled that the paper had insulted authorities. The court did not elaborate.
"We have received a court order banning Bahar from publishing until further notice even before charges are heard at the court," Amir Abbas Nakhaei, an editor at the paper, told The Associated Press.
Hayat-e-Nou said Friday that the cartoon had nothing to do with Khomeini, but was a reproduction of a 1937 work highlighting differences within America during President Franklin Roosevelt's era.
The cartoon shows a bearded, robed figure resembling Khomeini crushed by a thumb, which in the original was identified as Roosevelt.
"The cartoon has insulted the founder of the Islamic revolution and the judiciary should act swiftly about it or the protests will turn into a fireball," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted hard-line journalist Ali Yousefpour as saying.
Yousefpour was referring to protests against the cartoon Friday by hundreds of hard-liners in Tehran and Qom, the center of the country's religious establishment.
The Qom Theological School condemned the cartoon Saturday and said all seminaries throughout Iran will be closed Sunday to protest the insult, IRNA reported.
The dispute is the latest chapter of the power struggle between reformists, who back President Mohammad Khatami, and conservatives, who enjoy no popular base but cling to power by controlling unelected institutions such as the police and judiciary.