Khatami accuses hard-liners of undermining freedom, democracy in Iran

Former reformist president Mohammad Khatami sharply criticized Iran's hard-liners for barring many reformists from running in parliament elections Friday, saying they were misusing Islam and that people should be able to choose their rulers freely. The Guardian Council, a body of hard-line clerics and jurists tasked with vetting candidates, has barred more than 1,700 candidates from running - most of them reformists - on vague charges of not being sufficiently loyal to Islam and the 1979 Islamic revolution. Khatami told a large gathering of reformist supporters in southern Teheran late Tuesday that "honest individuals" who were disqualified "are portrayed as deviant and supporters of America. This is deplorable. Worse is that it is done in the name of Islam," according to the speech posted on his Web site. Allies of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other conservatives are widely expected to carry the elections, maintaining the hold they have had on parliament since 2004.