Iran's jailed Ayatollah Sayyid Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi has written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other religious leaders asking them to help secure his release.
The ayatollah asked the pontiff to "...defend the divine credibility and spiritual sacredness" by asking the Iranian authorities to respect human rights.
The letter was reportedly smuggled out of jail and distributed by the ayatollah's representative in Europe.
It was also addressed to Israel's chief rabbi, the grand mufti of al-Azhar and the Saudi ulema of Dar al-Fatwa.
Addressing the Muslim leaders, Kazemeini says that "Political Islam is erasing the word of God and his prophet, Mohammed", while he asks rabbis to "make the world hear the cry of the Muslims in Iran, in the name of the same God that (we) jointly worship."
Kazemeini has been jailed since October 2006 with a group of his supporters. They have been accused of anti-constitutional activities and heresy.
Rights group Amnesty International claims that Kazemeini has been tortured for the past two years. He is known to oppose political Islam and the presence of the mullahs and ayatollahs in government and institutions.
Kazemeini has broad support in Iran and before his arrest, thousands of people filled stadiums to hear his sermons.
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