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5/5/04

Iranian Dissident Hashem Aghajari Refuses to Appeal Death Verdict

VOA News

Jailed Iranian dissident Hashem Aghajari is refusing to appeal a death sentence imposed for a second time by a provincial court in western Iran. A court in Hamedan province first convicted and sentenced Mr. Aghajari to death for blasphemy in 2002, after finding he publicly questioned the role of Islamic clerics in Iran, but the Supreme Court rejected the sentence and sent the case back to the provincial court for further review.

Monday, the Hamedan court reinstated the death sentence and Mr. Aghajari's lawyer said that he had been instructed by his client not to appeal. The lawyer told Reuters that he expected the execution to be carried out if no appeal is lodged within 20 days.

The Iranian news agency said that three Supreme Court justices have been assigned to review the new death verdict.

Hashem Aghajari was convicted in November 2002 of insulting Islam. In addition to the death penalty, he was sentenced to 74 lashes, a 10-year ban from teaching and eight years of internal banishment.

The original sentence sparked public protests in Tehran and other cities. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ail Khamenei, ordered the judiciary to review the verdict, leading to the Supreme Court's 2003 decision to overturn it.

Mr. Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran's Teachers Training University and a disabled veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, angered Iranian hard-liners when he questioned why only clerics were allowed to interpret Islam.


Copyright (c) 2004 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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