A Tehran court released leftist Islamic activist Hashem Aghajari after his supporters put up nearly $113,000 in bail. The court retried Aghajari, after the supreme court twice threw out a Hamedan court’s death verdict. Aghajari said he prefers to remain “silent” pending the appeal of this five-year jail sentence. July 31, 2004 - A public court in Tehran on Saturday released leftist Islamic activist and history professor Hashem Aghajari on $113,000 in bail, as his five-year jail sentence is being reviewed by an appeals court. The bail was put up by a supporter, Aghajari’s lawyer said.
Aghajari refused to give interviews to reporters gathered outside his apartment. The state-run “students” news agency ISNA quoted him as saying “I prefer to remain silent for a while,” but news agencies quoted Aghajari’s family members who said the court has ordered not to talk to journalists while he is out of prison.
In addition to five years in jail, the court also banned Aghajari from teaching and publishing for another five years. Aghajari said he has appealed the sentence.
Disabled Iran-Iraq war veteran and a founder and board member of the leftist pro-reform party Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO) Hashem Aghajari, 47, had spent two years in jail for a speech he gave in June 2002 in Hamedan about Islamic Protestantism, during which he criticized clerical rule and the Shiite principle of religious emulation.
A Hamedan court twice sentenced Aghajari to death for blasphemy, and each time the sentence was overturned by the Islamic judiciary’s supreme court, after intervention by the Supreme Leader in response to widespread student demonstrations. Many clerics spoke out in support of Aghajari, denying that his speech amounted to blasphemy.
“I hope there will come a day when no one goes to prison in Iran for his opinions, let alone be sentenced to death,” Aghajari, speaking through his tears, told reporters outside his apartment in north Tehran on Saturday.
A reformist friend of Aghajari met the bail, Aghajari’s lawyer Saleh Nikhbakht told reporters, adding that more than 160 supporters, including academics and clerics, had offered to donate money to a fund to meet his bail.
In a simple ceremony at Aghajari’s home, a host of pro-reform activists and journalists gathered to welcome his release, including modernist Shiite clerics Mohsen Kadivar and Rohami and journalists Emadeddin Baghi, Isa Saharkhiz and Feizollah Arabsorkhi.
“I am happy to be among the people again,” Aghajari said. “And I am happy that truth prevailed.”
Two years of the five-year sentence is suspended and Aghajari has already served two years in jail. Aghajari will have to spend one year in jail if his appeal fails, his lawyer said.
“I am very happy my husband has been released but I would rather he had been acquitted,” said Aghajari's wife Zahra Behnoudi, her eyes swollen red with emotion.