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Jailed Iranian professor given leave to prepare exams

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A prominent journalist and university professor jailed on charges of insulting Islam and inciting dissent has been allowed a short leave to prepare exams, his family said Wednesday.

Latif Safari, a Tehran University professor and director of the now-banned Neshat daily, was given six days leave after university officials appealed to the judiciary for his temporary release, his son Amir-Hossein told The Associated Press.

"My father was released on Monday to prepare exam questions and will go back to prison on Saturday. He was given the leave after repeated demands by university officials," he said.

Safari, a professor of physiology, was jailed in April after he was sentenced to two years on charges that included insulting Islam and provoking riots in his articles.

Meanwhile over 100,000 supporters of Safari, who is a former member of parliament from the western city of Islamabad-e-Gharb, have signed a petition demanding his release.

"This prominent personality has become the target of a grudge by anti-reform leaders who enjoy influence in the judiciary. Safari has been jailed on the basis of trumped up charges. We demand that he be tried in a competent court free from political inclinations in order to pave the way for his freedom," read the petition, a copy of which was made available to the AP on Wednesday.

The hard-line crackdown is aimed at rolling back reforms initiated by President Mohammad Khatami after coming to power in 1997 on a platform to loosen the social, political and cultural restrictions that hard-liners have imposed since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Khatami's nationwide popularity translated into an overwhelming victory for his allies in February legislative elections that ousted hard-liners from parliament for the first time. Stung by the defeat, the hard-liners are hitting back, using the considerable powers at their disposal.

The hard-liners control the judiciary, the state media, the military and the Guardian Council, an election supervisory body that also vets all laws passed by parliament.


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