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Iraq parliament approves legal action against Al Jazeera for 'insulting' Shiite cleric

[JURIST] The Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website, in Arabic] Wednesday approved a measure to take legal action against Al Jazeera [media website] television for alleged insults against top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani [BBC profile; official website]. The measure followed days of protests [AP report] by thousands of Shi'a Muslims in the southern cities of Basra and Najaf against Egyptian talk show host Ahmed Mansour, who had openly questioned al-Sistani's leadership credentials and whether the revered leader authored his own fatwas. Council Speaker Mamoud al-Mashhadani did not reveal the specifics of the action, but did say the matter would be referred to the council's legal committee. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public, has not responded to the comments.

On Sunday, Iran's legislative body, the Majlis [official website, in English], voted to ban Al Jazeera reporters from its parliamentary building. In August of 2004, the interim Iraqi government banned Al Jazeera from operating in Iraq [JURIST report] on grounds that the Qatar-based satellite television network incited sectarian violence and hatred by airing footage of threatened hostages. The ban has not been rescinded. AP has more.

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