On the third day of his trial in a Tehran public court, Islamic leftist activist, history professor Hashem Aghajari said his explanation of Islamic modernist thinker Ali Shariati’s view on Islamic Protestantism may have been a mistake, but was certainly not a crime punishable by death. Lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh tells Radio Farda that the charges against Aghajari are political in nature, which require tiral with jury. July 10, 2004 - Islamic leftist activist Hashem Aghajari defended his June 2002 Hamedan speech Saturday during a six-hour public hearing in a Tehran court. The speech, for which Aghajari has been twice sentenced to death, was a summary of Islamic modernist think Ali Shariati’s ideas about Islamic Protestantism, Aghajari said, adding that he did not deserve to die for explaining ideas which may or not have been objectionable.
An hour before he arrived in a Tehran taxi for his trial, a group of 30 teenage hard-line Hezbollah agents began a demonstration against Aghajari outside the courthouse, and called on the court to punish him for insulting the Shiite clergy.
A group of reformist politicians and activists, including former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, nationalist opposition leader Ebrahim Yazdi and modernist Shiite cleric Mohsen Kadivar, who had come to court to show their support for Aghajari, decided not to attend the hearing after they were confronted by hard-line demonstrators, and the police blocked their entry.
Lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh who was in court at the time, tells Radio Farda’s broadcaster Nima Tamaddon that police allowed some of the teenage demonstrators to enter the court as spectators.
In his defense, Aghajari re-affirmed his support for the Islamic government, but said he opposed the holy image of the Shiite clerics that the government’s official media promote. “In my (June 2002 Hamedan) speech I defended Islam and the Islamic government, but I said a religious government is neither religious nor legitimate if it arrests clerics and cracks down on intellectuals in the name of preserving the religion,” Aghajari told the court.
“The charges against Aghajari are political and ideological,” Seifzadeh says. “According to the constitution, such charges should be tried in a penal court with the presence of a jury,” he adds.
Aghajari has been charged with blasphemy, insulting Islam and questioning Iran’s clerical rule for his speech two years ago in Hamedan. The Islamic judiciary’s supreme court has twice turned down Hamedan court's death sentences against Aghajari, after the Supreme Leader intervened.
The amended charges Aghajari now faces carry a penalty of one to five years jail. The revised indictment charges him of “insulting Islamic sanctities, propagating against the ruling Islamic establishment” and “spreading lies for the purpose of inciting public opinion.”
Aghajari has already said he had "no hope" of justice and has repeatedly accused judge Mohammad Eslami of violating neutrality. Eslami said he would issue his verdict within a week.