Iran critic faces death penalty


BBC news

The death sentence imposed on liberal Iranian academic Hashem Aghajari has been confirmed, his lawyer has said.

Saleh Nikbakht says he has been officially told of the re-imposition of the death penalty originally passed on his client in 2002.

Mr Aghajari was charged with blasphemy for saying that Muslims should not blindly follow religious leaders.

The Supreme Court later annulled the sentence and sent the case back to the provincial court for review.

The provincial court, in the western city of Hamedan where Mr Aghajari made his comments, re-imposed the death penalty earlier in May.

Mr Nikbakht was quoted by the Iranian news agency as saying that the judge in the case had failed to clear any of the shortcomings pointed out by the Supreme Court.

He said that his client refuses to appeal, in protest at the re-imposition of the sentence.

Protests

The original imposition of the death sentence prompted protests by students and the intervention of influential reformists, including the Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami.

Mr Aghajari is currently being held in Evin prison in Tehran, where he is serving a four-year sentence imposed in place of the death penalty by the Supreme Court.

Mr Aghajari, a history professor at a Tehran college, made a speech in August 2002, which was a seen as an attack on the country's Islamic establishment and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Khamenei.

He said that Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" the clerics.

As well as the death sentence for apostasy and insulting the early imams, he received further sentences of a 10-year ban on teaching, eight years in jail and 74 lashes for lesser offences.

After student protests, Ayatollah Khamenei was forced to step in and order a review of his verdict.

Hashem Aghajari is a war veteran who lost a leg in the 1980-88 war with Iraq. He belongs to a left-wing reformist political group, the Islamic Revolutionary Mujahidin Organisation.