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Outspoken Iranian journalist Aghajari returns to jail after spending leave

Outspoken university professor and journalist, Hashem Aghajari, has returned to jail in the western Iranian city of Hamedan at the end of his prison leave, an informed source at the justice department here told IRNA Saturday.

Aghajari, who has escaped death for blasphemy once, was granted temporary leave from prison on April 6 after posting a bail of 1.2 billion rials. The court extended the prison leave for five days.

The 46-year-old intellectual 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 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.

Press Saturday said that the intellectual had gone to visit senior clerics and 'sources of emulation' in the religious city of Qom with another dissident Emadoddin Baqi who was freed in February after spending three years in jail.

"The aim of the visit was to thank Qom's religious thinkers who had plainly considered Aghajari's charges and his articles not constituting an insult to sanctities," the Persian daily Nassim-e Saba quoted Baqi as saying.

The clerics, including Ayatollah Yousef Sane'i, Ayatollah Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Gerami hoped that Aghajari would be freed from prison soon, he said, the paper added.

During his leave, Aghajari went to the Parliament to thank Speaker Mehdi Karroubi for trying to secure his release from prison.

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

His 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.

"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 - 4/19/03 ... --

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