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Iran to Review Death Sentence of Professor in Blasphemy Case - 2002-11-25


Iran's judiciary says it will review the case of a prominent academic who has been condemned to die for blasphemy. Larry James reports from our Middle East Bureau in Cairo

A judiciary spokesman said Monday a review of Hashem Aghajari's case will be held in accordance with the order issued last week by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. No date for the review was given.

At the same time, Iranian authorities have demanded that students end their protests against Mr. Aghajari's death sentence, protests that have rocked Iran for two weeks.

Mr. Aghajari, a disabled veteran of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and an ally of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, was sentenced to die by a hard-line court on November 6. Protesters have also demanded greater freedoms in Iran, including the release of political prisoners and more freedom of speech.

The student protests have sparked counter-demonstrations from conservatives in Iran.

On Sunday, at least 10,000 people gathered outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran denouncing the student protests and shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami has been trying to curb the influence of conservatives, who control the key functions of power in the government.

Mr. Aghajari was convicted on blasphemy charges by a court in the western city of Hamadan after saying Muslims were not "monkeys" who should blindly follow the dictates of ruling Islamic clerics. Students have also been calling for greater freedom of speech and political reforms.