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Former police chief acquitted

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A military court acquitted a former Tehran police chief Tuesday of ordering the storming of a student hostel that left one person dead, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Photo here

The acquittal of Brig. Gen. Farhad Nazari and 17 other fellow police officers was promptly condemned by a liberal member of parliament and a student leader.

Two other policemen were convicted in the trial, one for taking part in the July 1999 raid and another for stealing from the Tehran University hostel.

The pre-dawn raid left one student dead and at least 20 injured. It took place after students at the hostel had mounted a small demonstration against the closure of a reformist newspaper.

The brutality of the raid caused a public outcry and triggered the biggest demonstrations seen in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Nazari was found not guilty of ordering policemen to enter the dormitory, disobeying orders and tarnishing the image of the police.

After the verdict was announced, one of the acquitted police officers walked up to Nazari, embraced him and covered his shoulders with a chafieh, a cloth usually worn by hard-line vigilantes.

Police officer Farhad Arjomandi was sentenced to two years in prison for ignoring orders and beating students during the raid. His colleague Orjali Babrzadeh was sentenced to 91 days in prison and fined $125 dollars for stealing an electric shaver from the dormitory.

Liberal legislator Rajab Mazrouei, said the verdict delivered no justice to the victims of the raid.

``Then, who attacked the students? Was it invisible forces who savagely stormed the dormitory? This verdict causes irreparable damage to the judiciary's credibility in the eyes of the public,'' Mazrouei told The Associated Press.

A member of the Office for Fostering Unity, the largest pro-reform student group, also condemned the verdicts, describing them as ``unjust.''

``This attitude damages public trust and confidence in the judiciary,'' said Ebrahim Sheikh.

The verdict came against the background of a power struggle between reformists led by President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners who look for support to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Hard-liners, who control the judiciary, have closed 19 newspapers and magazines, most of them pro-reform, and ordered the arrest of several leading journalists since April.


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