A number of Iranian officials have been arrested in a crackdown ordered by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on judges and administrators who abuse their authority and violate human rights.
The Ayatollah attacked his Islamic republic's judicial system two weeks ago, denouncing it for failing to ensure the security of individuals. He ordered the powerful neighborhood revolutionary committees to end detentions made without a court order, outlawed arbitrary telephone tapping, and banned spying by individuals on their neighbors.
The Ayatollah previously supported the Islamic courts that have, according to Amnesty International, ordered more than 4,000 executions since the February 1979 revolution.
In the past week, according to the official Iranian media, a senior Labor Ministry official and the revolutionary prosecutor of the holy city of Qom have been summoned to answer charges of overstepping their authority.
Four senior officials in other cities, including two provincial prosecutors, were arrested for abuse of power. Teheran Radio, monitored here, said 20 investigative teams had been formed on instructions from Khomeini to travel Iran to study complaints of human-rights violations.
Western diplomats said it amounted to a liberalization program aimed at countering public discontent about the stricter aspects of Islamic rule and the arbitrary power of the committees. Western analysts believe the Ayatollah issued his decree partly to encourage exiled skilled workers and experts to return to Iran without fear of arbitrary arrest.