Source: Center for Human Rights in Iran
Javad Giahshenas, a newly elected reformist member of the city council in Hamadan, northwestern Iran, was arrested for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
"The merciful prophet was secular and Islam is the same as liberalism," Giahshenas was quoted saying during a presidential campaign event at the Islamic Azad University of Hamadan, where he works as an academic staffer at the political science department.
The report was published on May 22, 2017 by the Fars News Agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Giahshenas, who is also the chairman of the local branch of the Mardomsalari (Democracy) Party in Hamadan, was voted in as an alternate member of the city council in Iran's May 19 elections. He was endorsed by the reformist "Hope" list of candidates.
On May 24, the Didban Iran (Iran Observatory) website reported that Giahshenas was released on bail set at 50 million tomans ($15,400 USD).
"I apologize and strongly distance myself for any inappropriate perceptions of my talk of the benevolent prophet," Giahshenas said in a statement posted on the university's website on May 18.
"One of the definitions of secularism is to be aware of the world and that is what the Quran explicitly advises the merciful prophet in the verse '... do not forget your share of the world...,'" he added.
Giahshenas continued: "On the subject of liberalism, the root of the word comes from liberty, which means freedom. But our interpretation of freedom does not include debauchery and sinful behavior."
That day, the university's ultra-conservative Basij student organization called for Giahshenas to be disqualified from membership in the Hamadan City Council, expelled from the university and prosecuted for insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
"We believe that as Muslims, our silence would be treason to the Quran," said the group in a statement on May 18. "We will raise our voice against those who insult the holy body of Islam and the benevolent prophet and pound their dirty mouths with our angry fists."
If prosecuted and found guilty, Giahshenas could face the death penalty.
Article 513 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code states: "Anyone who insults the sacred values of Islam or any of the great prophets or [twelve] Shi'ite imams or the holy Fatima, if considered as Saab ul-nabi [as having committed actions warranting the hadd (Quran) punishment for insulting the Prophet], shall be executed. Otherwise, they shall be sentenced to one to five years imprisonment."
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