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Iran's provincial court transferring outspoken journalist to Tehran

A court in the western Iranian city of Hamedan has upheld part of outspoken university professor Hashem Aghajari's 8-year jail term and decided that he serve his sentence in Tehran, head of Hamedan justice department said here Wednesday, IRNA reported.

The court has also granted a further one-week prison leave on a bail of 1.3 billion rials to the intellectual, who has once escaped hang for blasphemy, Zekrollah Ahmadi said.

Aghajari's wife, Zahra Behnoudi, confirmed this news and said that Ahmadi had commuted his husband's jail term to three years.

She said the court had agreed with prison leave for her husband, following Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi's talks with judiciary officials in Hamedan.

Last month, Aghajari went to parliament during a temporary leave from jail to thank Karroubi for trying to secure the parole.

Aghajari is due to return to Hamedan Justice Department after spending the leave and be transferred to Tehran, Behnoudi added.

Ahmadi said Aghajari is no longer under temporary detention and is serving his normal jail term.

Aghajari's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, however said that he was unaware about whether the appeals court had upheld part of his client's jail sentence.

He said "we do not accept even a one-day imprisonment for Aghajari and we will use all legal channels to protest to the new ruling".

There was no word about Aghajari's other penalties, including 74 lashes and ban from teaching for 10 years. The 46-year-old intellectual also runs an unlikely risk of facing another death sentence on blasphemy.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said in February that Aghajari may face another death sentence during a new trial since the death penalty has not been entirely quashed but has only been halted on the ground of 'defects in investigations'.

Aghajari was initially sentenced by a court here to death on charge of blaspheming Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) but the sentence was quashed later after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered a review.

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.

... Payvand News - 5/22/03 ... --

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