threatens resignation over power struggle with hard-liners
Move comes in response to widespread dissatisfaction
Government continues crackdown on pro-reform press
The Daily Star,
university professor whose death sentence provoked nationwide protests
until it was lifted by the Supreme Court has been sentenced by an appeals
court to nearly four years in jail, his lawyer said.
The Sunday announcement came a day after President Mohammad
Khatami said he would resign if Iranians
dissatisfied over his failure to deliver promised reforms want him to
leave office, according to press reports.
Hashem Aghajari, a
history professor at Tehran’s Teachers Training University,
was sentenced to three years, 11 months and 29 days. The verdict also
barred him from running for office or occupying government posts for five
years and suspended a previous sentence of 74 lashes, lawyer
told The Associated Press.
Aghajari was sentenced for insulting Islam and
questioning clerical rule during a speech in western Iran last June.
Khatami’s first-ever offer to resign comes
amid continuing attempts by ruling hard-line clerics to stymie his reform
agenda and the deepening public discontent over the country’s slow pace
toward democratic change.
“We are not masters of people but servants of this nation. If this nation
says we don’t want you, we will go,” Khatami
was quoted as saying Saturday by the government-owned daily, Iran.
He made the comments in a speech in Karaj,
west of the capital, on Thursday, but state-run television and radio
censored the part of his speech dealing with a possible resignation.
Khatami has repeated in recent years that he
has been powerless to stop hard-liners violating the constitution and
acting against voted reforms.
The closure of more than 90 pro-democracy publications in the past three
years, the arrest of dozens of prominent intellectuals and writers and
closed trials without jury were open violations of the constitution, he
Khatami has said he was responsible under the
constitution to stop such violations, but the hard-line judiciary has
ignored his warnings.
Last November, Aghajari was condemned to
death, banned from teaching for 10 years, exiled for eight years to three
remote cities and sentenced to receive 74 lashes.
Iran’s Supreme Court lifted the death sentence in February, saying the
charges were inconsistent with Aghajari’s
speech, and returned the case to the issuing court for review.
Nikbakht said the appeals court issued its
verdict on April 26 and that he was notified on June 9. He said he did not
announce the verdict because it coincided with student-led protests
against the ruling Islamic establishment.
“I would have been accused by the judiciary of inciting public opinion,”
Nikbakht criticized the verdict as “an insult
to justice and the judiciary.” He said the appeals court ruling made new
charges against his client, including libel and spreading lies.
Nikbakht said he had appealed the new sentence
earlier this week.
It was not immediately clear whether this would be
Aghajari’s last appeal. Aghajari’s
sentencing last November provoked the biggest student protests in Iran in
three years and highlighted the power struggle between the country’s
liberals and hard-liners.
He initially said he would not appeal the death sentence, challenging the
judiciary to carry it out. But his lawyer filed an appeal over
Both the Parliament and Khatami denounced the
death sentence. But hard-liners, who dominate government bodies such as
the judiciary and police and accuse reformists of undermining the
principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution, defended the sentence.
Also Sunday, the editor of the reformist daily
Yas-e-Nou said two of the paper’s journalists had been detained.
and Hossein Bastani were detained Saturday
evening, said Mohammad Naimipour, a prominent
lawmaker. He gave no further details.
Relatives said the two were arrested on charges of “threatening national
Prominent student leader Saeed Razavi
Faqih was arrested Thursday on similar
charges, relatives said. Faqih had organized
student protests to condemn Aghajari’s death
Khatami also came under attack from liberals,
including prominent philosopher Aldolkarim
Soroush, who accused him of failing to push for reforms since his May,
“The peaceful and democratic uprising of the Iranian people against
religious dictatorship in May 1997 was a sweet experience,” Soroush said
in a letter addressed to Khatami.
“But your failure to keep the vote and your wasting of opportunities put
an end to it and disappointed the nation. Now, failures have turned into
Soroush was referring to last month’s student-led protests against the
ruling Islamic establishment and the continuing arrests of student leaders
and writers. Agencies