KHORDADIAN SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS OF BAN FROM LEAVING IRAN

TEHRAN 9 Jul. (IPS) A court in Tehran sentenced Mr. Mohammed Khordadian, a popular Iranian dancer, to ten years of suspended jail and ten years of interdiction of leaving Iran.

Mr. Khordadian, who had left his native Iran after the Islamic revolution of 1979, came back about two months ago after 23 years to visit his family and assist in the funeral of his ageing mother, but was arrested at the Tehran Airport on his return to Los Angeles, where he lives and runs a dance school, giving lessons in Iranian traditional dances, performing for the large Iranian community in California and also producing videotapes of dances, mixing male and female artists.

TV stations run by Iranian exiles and beamed to Iran often use his videos, which are very popular among young Iranians deprived of any kind of entertainments

The court, for this reason, banned Mr. Khordadian to take part in any wedding for three years, except those in his own family and banned from giving dance lessons ever again.

Dance, like other forms of modern entertainment, even simple chatting between boys and girls are prohibited under Islamic laws that are in vigour in Islamic Republic.

After spending two months in Evin prison, Mr. Khordadian was eventually released on bail, waiting for his trial by a Tehran court that found him guilty of "enticing and inciting the nation's youth to corruption".

Mr Khordadian's lawyer argued unsuccessfully that his client had done nothing wrong and that the alleged offences had in any case been committed abroad.

As for the 10 years' country arrest, he said that living in Iran should be regarded as an honour not a punishment.

Although many Iranians dance at private parties, especially weddings, the ruling clerical establishment frowns on such behaviour, especially when it involves the mingling of the sexes.

The case of Mr. Khordadian dealt a heavy blow to efforts by many reformists, including lawmakers, to encourage Iranians expats to return home helping save the crippled and unpopular religin-based regime.

According to an unofficial estimate, the wealth accumulated by the Iranian community in the United States alone is above 450 billion US Dollars, ten times the budget of the Islamic Republic.

There are more than 4 million Iranians who have left the country after the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the authorities say the increase in brain drain over the past three years has reached alarming points.

Meanwhile, another court in the northwestern city of Hamadan has banned Mr. Hashem Aqajari, a prominent scholar and intellectual to leave Iran.

The court has summoned Mr. Aqajari after a conference he gave in this city in which he said Islam does not recognise a cast known as "rowhaniyyat", or clergy, some of it a bunch of illiterate that have monopolised the religion in their hands.

His remarks created fury among Iranian ruling clergy and Islamic thugs demonstrated against him, calling for his execution.

The pro-reform Organisation of Islamic Revolution Mojahedeens, of which Mr. Aqajari is a member, has defended him in a statement, described the attacks and vituperations against the scholar as "insulting". ENDS KHORDADINA SENTENCED 9702