TEHRAN 2 Feb. (IPS) Abbas Abdi and Hoseyn Qazian, two of the three imprisoned Iranian pollsters were handed heavy sentences, according to the press of Sunday, quoting Judge Sa’id Mortazavi.

The two men, plus Mr. Behrooz Geranpayeh and Mr. Alireza Alavitabar, all directors of the National Institute for Research Studies (NIRS), sponsored by the Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry were arrested, and their firm shut after they conducted a poll that showed at least 74 per cent of the Iranians were in favour of relations with the United States.

The controversial survey was commissioned by the Foreign and Security Affairs Committee of the Majles and conducted by NIRS and two other similar firms, one of them controlled by the conservatives, all reaching more or less same results.

The results, published by the official news agency IRNA, also showed that only 1.2 per cent of Iranians consider Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the disputed leader of the Islamic Republic as a popular political personality fit to be leader.

The Judiciary, on orders from Mr. Khameneh'i, accused the men of espionage for American intelligence agency CIA, adding that they had received 45.000 US Dollars from the American firm of Gallup to “fabricate” a survey that would show Iranians were against the policies of their clerical leaders.

Mr. Abdi, a former Iranian revolutionary student who, along with several others, participated in the raid on the American embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took hostage 55 American diplomats and staff for 444 days, received seven years imprisonment and Mr. Qazian eight, the press reported, adding that the verdict for Mr. Geranpayeh was not clear.

As a result, the United States cut all ties with the newly established Islamic Republic and imposed a strict economic embargo that paralysed Iran’s economy, mostly in the vital oil sector.

Like many other former hard line revolutionaries, Mr. Abdi turned reformist and played an important role in the surprise election of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in the presidential race of May 1979.

In a dramatic event, he met with Mr. Bary Rosen, one of the American diplomats in the custody of the students, at the headquarters of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), calling for reconciliation between Tehran and Washington.

In recent statements and lectures, Mr. Abdi had suggested that Mr. Khatami and the reformists should quit the political scene and leave the ruling conservatives to face directly the people in case the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians (CG) rejects the two bills the embattled Khatami has submitted to the reformists-dominated Majles, aimed at curtailing some of the powers of the 12-members CG considered as “unconstitutional” in the one hand and increasing the powers of the president on the other.

In the view of many Iranian political analysts, the idea of the reformist’s mass resignation had both “angered and frightened” so much that the conservatives decided to punish him “at any cost”.

During their trial by an Islamic Revolution court, both Abdi and Geranpayeh read statements “confessing” to “mistakes” made in the conduct of the survey, “acknowledged” that as a result, they had “harmed” the Iranian nation, “served the interests” of foreign powers and “apologised” to the “beloved leader”.

Reformists immediately reacted by claiming that the “confessions” had been made under torture the men had suffered while in prison.

The court however charged the NIRS has not been officially registered and therefore not authorised to conduct any survey and further termed the poll results as false. ENDS POLLSTERS CONDEMNED 2203