TEHRAN, Feb 16: Iranian Culture Minister Ahmad Masjed-Jamei protested against the recent police action to call in journalists and leading reformists for questioning, the Hamshahri daily reported on Saturday.

“These summons threaten national security and are preoccupying cultural circles,” he said in a letter to interior and intelligence ministers, Abdolvahed Mussavi-Lari and Ali Yunessi respectively, asking them to take “rapid action” for an end to the questionings.

On Wednesday, Iran’s reformists, who dominate parliament, had strongly criticised the conditions in which journalists and intellectuals had been questioned by police recently.

“These journalists and intellectuals were summoned, interrogated on their past and political and religious convictions, and even subjected to insulting treatment,” said reformist deputy Ali-Asghar Hadizadeh.

Hadizadeh, who was speaking to parliament, added that two well-known French-language writers close to the liberals, Daryoush Shaygan and Ali Dehbashi, as well as an unspecified number of journalists, were “subjected to forced interrogations by the police.”

The Iranian police force, led by Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, comes under the direct jurisdiction of the supreme guide of the revolution, Ali Khamenei, and is regularly accused by the reformists of acting for the conservatives.

The powerful conservative-dominated courts have been leading a campaign against the press since April 2000, ordering the suspension of 21 dailies and around 30 reformist periodicals, as well as imprisoning some 15 journalists.—AFP