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3/16/03

Iran: Aghajari denounces as 'insult' verdict by Supreme Court

Hashem Aghajari has denounced as an "insult" a recent verdict by the Supreme Court that he should go through a psychological examination, stressing that he would only stand an open trial to defend against the charges, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Zahra Behnoudi, Aghajari's wife on Saturday told IRNA that the academic would never attend the examination at the Forensic Medicine Office as a protest to the ruling issued by the 27th branch of the Supreme Court.

Behnoudi stressed that Aghajari, as a university lecturer, considers the verdict as an "unfair allegation".

"Aghajari in his letter has stressed that `he would only attend an open trial with the presence of the jury to reveal the truth'," she said.

A court in the western province of Hamedan sentenced Aghajari to death on blasphemy charges following his speech in the city last August in which he called for religious restructuring and criticized the Islamic principle of emulating religious leaders in Shia-dominated Iran.

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.

"Despite the fact that the death verdict has been quashed, Aghajari has not yet been released," she regretted.

Behnoudi added that the court has not responded to the appeal for temporary release on bail of Aghajari which was made by his lawyer Saleh Nikbakht.

"We hoped that he would be released on bail on the eve of the new Iranian Year," she said.

... Payvand News - 3/16/03 ... --



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