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Outspoken Iranian intellectual Hashem Aghajari meets parliament speaker

University professor Hashem Aghajari, who was initially given a death sentence for blasphemy, went to the Parliament in Tehran on Tuesday to thank Speaker Mehdi Karroubi for trying to secure his release from prison, IRNA reported.

"I thanked Mr. Karroubi for his efforts to have me freed," said Aghajari, who was granted temporary home leave from prison in the western city of Hamedan Sunday.

He refused to talk further to journalists, saying "I am not supposed to talk to the media during my leave from prison."

Aghajari left the prison for a one-week home leave on Sunday after posting a bail of 1.2 billion rials, the source added.

Aghajari, 46, was initially sentenced by a court here to death on charge of blaspheming Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). But the sentence was quashed by the Supreme Court after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered a review.

Aghajari further faces an eight-year banishment in desert cities as well as 74 lashes and ban from teaching for 10 years.

The sentences are related to Aghajari's speech in August last year in which he called for religious restructuring and criticized the Islamic principle of emulating religious leaders in Iran.

Aghajari is a war veteran, who lost his leg as well as his brother during the Iraqi imposed-war of 1980-1988.

The death sentence drew angry criticism, with students staging several days of protest rallies to call on the Judiciary to suspend the ruling.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said in February that Aghajari may face another death sentence during a new trial.

The death penalty has not been entirely quashed; it has rather only been halted on the ground of 'defects in investigations' and Aghajari has to stand trial at the same court which issued the verdict of execution, the official has said.

"It is possible that the new ruling will confirm the initial verdict or a different verdict will be issued," Elham said, adding the defendant could then appeal.

... Payvand News - 4/8/03 ... --

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