Liberal Iranian cleric sentenced to 18 months in prison
TEHRAN, April 21 (AFP) - Mohsen Kadivar, a liberal cleric charged with
spreading propaganda hostile to Iran's Islamic regime, has been sentenced
to 18 months in prison, his lawyer announced Wednesday.
Hossein Musavi Tabrizi told the official IRNA news agency that Kadivar,
who is close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, had been sentenced
to prison by the hardline Special Court for Clergy.
Tabrizi said he will disclose details of the sentence later and noted
that it can be appealed within the next 20 days.
Kadivar, considered a leading light of the reform movement in Iran,
was detained in February for writing a number of articles calling for
political life in the Islamic Republic to have more autonomy from religion.
A cleric and university professor opposed to the religious hardliners,
he vigorously rejected last Wednesday the charges laid against him by
the court during the only session of his trial.
He denied he was an "enemy of the state," charged that his
trial was unconstitutional and said the court was not competent to try
"Investigation into political and press offenses must be carried
out in the presence of a jury and by a qualified court of the judiciary.
The Special Court for Clergy is not a part of the judiciary," Kadivar
But Mohammad Salimi, head of the court, shot back that the charges against
Kadivar were "not political or press offenses."
The special court, which operates independently of the judiciary and
almost always behind closed doors, has been heavily criticised over the
arrest, which sparked demonstrations nationwide.
The special court was created in 1985 by the leader of the Islamic Revolution,
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei.
In an unusual move, members of Kadivar's family and several journalists
were allowed to attend last week's court session.
Some 200 journalists signed a petition saying Kadivar's arrest was unconstitutional
and an "offense" against Iran's writers and intellectuals, while
the streets of Tehran were plastered with pro-Kadivar posters.
His trial came amid a new and fierce offensive launched by the powerful
conservative faction against supporters of President Khatami and moderate
Khatami on Thursday insisted that freedom of thought and expression
was "a must" for society, even as supreme guide Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei warned against "the enemies inside" whom he said were
more dangerous than those abroad.