A hardline Iranian court has sentenced members of the opposition Iran Freedom Movement, the IFM, to jail Saturday and ordered some to pay up to $6,000 in fines. The political party has also been banned.
Iran's official news agency, IRNA, also reported that the Tehran Revolutionary Court barred the Iran Freedom Movement's leaders from any political activity for 10 years and dissolved parties close to it.
Fifty-two members were put on trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the establishment, collecting classified information and having contact with well-placed foreigners. They were also accused of spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic.
The verdict, which comes after a closed trial, reportedly can be appealed after 20 days.
Twenty-one of the party members were sentenced to jail terms of between nine months and 10 years. Another 12 were given sentences of four months to two years. And another eight were ordered to pay fines up to $6,000. Eleven of the accused were acquitted.
IFM party leader Ebrahim Yazdi described the verdict as unconstitutional and politically motivated. The organization is said to be close to President Mohamed Khatami and his reformist government.
The party leader said that under the Iranian constitution, political crimes and party violations are to be investigated in an open general court. That court, he said, is to be attended by a jury.
The Iran Freedom Movement opposes Iran's two decades of clerical rule, rejects violence and is pressing for democratic changes within the country. The party was established in the early 1960s.