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Judiciary says decision on Aghajari's death sentence imminent

Neyshabour, Khorassan prov, Feb 13, IRNA -- Iran's supreme court will soon announce its decision on outspoken university professor Hashem Aghajari, who is pending a review of his death sentence on charge of blasphemy, Deputy Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Hadi Marvi, said in this northeastern city Thursday.

A bench of the supreme court, based in the religious city of Qom, where the case is being examined, has finished reviewing the death sentence and a decision to this effect will be announced soon, he added.

"The file is currently at the stage of dictum and the suspect as well as the people will be informed of the circumstances immediately after a verdict is issued," Marvi added.

Aghajari, 45, a history lecturer, was sentenced on November 6 last year to death by a court of first order in the western city of Hamedan for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

The court further handed him an eight-year banishment in desert cities as well as 74 lashes and banned him 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.

His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told IRNA Saturday that the death verdict had 'most probably' been lifted, but stressed that he had not been notified of any decision yet.

"I have heard that the (death) verdict, issued by Bench 14 of the Hamedan public court, against my client has been cancelled," he said.

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.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put an end to the impasse by ordering the sentence to be reviewed.

On Saturday, one of Aghajari's supporters, Hossein Mojahed, who is the head of the mainstream Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) in the Hamedan province, was sent to six months in jail on charge of inciting public opinion.

Mojahed was summoned to court and indicted 10 months ago. A court in Hamedan had initially sentenced him to 30 months in jail and 74 lashes on charges of defamation and libel as well as inciting public opinion.

However, the city's appeals court commuted the sentence to six-month imprisonment after it rejected the libel charge.

... Payvand News - 2/14/03 ... --

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