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Newspaper editor freed on bail

TEHRAN, Aug 3 (AFP) - The editor of the pro-reform Iranian newspaper whose closure sparked days of bloody riots was freed on bail by a hardline religious court on Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency said.

Abbas Abdi, summoned on charges his Salam paper had insulted the clergy and the Iranian people, was released on the condition he pay some 200 million rials (65,000 dollars).

"He is free until the next phase of the legal proceedings against him," a court official told IRNA.

The 43-year-old editor is accused of having described people shouting anti-US slogans as "bandits and outlaws" in a speech he delivered in the holy city of Qom last year.

It was the third appearance before a revolutionary court for Abdi, who was imprisoned three years ago in connection with his activities with Salam.

The popular and outspoken paper, which is close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, was banned last month, sparking student demonstrations that erupted in violence after protesters were attacked by security forces and Islamic hardliners.

Salam director Mohammad Khoeinia was convicted last week on a sweeping array of charges ranging from libel and defamation, to publishing lies and classified information and insulting members of parliament.

Iran's conseravtive-dominated judiciary has waged a crackdown on the largely pro-Khatami press in recent months.

At least three pro-Khatami papers have been closed down since the beginning of the year and dozens of journalists arrested or called in for questioning.


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