Tehran cuts sentence of dissident
The Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Tehran
May 15 2001 16:54GMT
Iran's best known political prisoner, journalist Akbar Ganji, had his 10-year jail sentence reduced to six months after an appeals court rejected several charges in a surprise ruling that indicated hardline
clerics had lost absolute control over the judiciary.
Gholam-Ali Rihayi, defence lawyer for Mr Ganji, said a Tehran appeals court had cleared his client of charges of acting against national security, possession of secret documents and offences against prominent figures of state.
The court also overturned the additional sentence of five years in internal exile imposed by the Revolutionary Court in January, but a verdict of making propaganda against the Islamic system, carrying a six-month jail term, was upheld.
Mr Ganji, known in Iran for his allegations of high-level involvement in the murders of dissident intellectuals in the 1990s, was among seven Iranians given jail terms of four to 10 years for their part in a conference on Iran's reforms in Berlin in April last year.
The prosecution said the conference, organised by an affiliate of Germany's Green party, was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic regime.
It was the third time in recent weeks that an appeals court had overturned what reformists denounced as politically motivated sentences imposed by a lower court. Arya, among more than 40 pro-reform journals closed over the past year, was allowed to reopen, while Mustafa Tajzadeh, a deputy interior minister, was acquitted of charges of helping to rig parliamentary elections last year.
Iranian analysts, surprised by the latest ruling, said it appeared that reforms were having an impact within the judiciary and that hardline clerics opposed to President Mohammad Khatami were losing their absolute authority.
Mr Ganji was arrested over a year ago on his return from Berlin. Lawyers said he could be kept in prison while awaiting trial before Iran's Press Court on separate charges related to his articles and best-selling books.
Mr Ganji alleged in his writings that senior clerics and politicians were linked to the killings of 80 intellectuals in the 1990s. In his last public appearance before the Revolutionary Court, Mr Ganji caused uproar by naming several prominent figures, including Ali Fallahian, the former intelligence minister, he alleged were involved. Mr Fallahian is running in next month's presidential election against Mr Khatami and has denied the allegations.