Iran shuts reformist paper over comments on law

DUBAI Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:10pm EST

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian authorities shut a reformist newspaper on Thursday, less than a week after its launch, because it published comments critical of Islamic criminal law.

"Aseman" (Sky) newspaper, a weekly magazine turned newspaper aligned with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, had quoted a political science professor describing eye-for-an-eye punishment as "inhumane."

"The newspaper was banned for spreading lies and insulting Islam," an official from Tehran's Prosecutor's office told the official IRNA news agency.

Numerous articles by Iran's hardline Fars News agency had called for the paper's closure, reflecting conservative displeasure with any challenge to shariah law, which mandates equal retribution for a crime. Conservatives in parliament had also urged it be shut, calling the comments "unacceptable," according to reports from Fars.

The paper's managing director, Mohamad Ghouchani, was also prosecuted, the semi-official ISNA news agency said without elaborating. Ghouchani issued an apology later the same day.

"A technical problem at the last moments of printing led to this incident. If it were not for that, we would have deleted that part from the article," he said, according to IRNA.

Aseman, which existed for years as a weekly, first published as a daily on Saturday with the cover saying "Rouhani is not alone". It is the second newspaper to be shut since Rouhani took office in late August following his victory in presidential elections. Bahar, another reformist publication, was ordered closed in October after critics said it misrepresented Islamic history.

Following Rouhani's election, many Iranians hoped he would make good on his promises for greater political and cultural freedoms at home, a development that has yet to materialize.

(This February 20 story has been corrected to delete extraneous word in fifth paragraph)

(Reporting by Michelle Moghtader; Editing by Larry King)

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