TEHRAN, 18 May (IPS) One week after his death sentence confirmed by a court in the eastern city of Hamadan, a defiant Hashem Aqajari reiterated that he would not seek appeal, raising the menace of unleashing the wrath of the students and renewed condemnations of the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on the dissidents, human rights and freedom of expression.
“I refuse to sign the notification of the verdict and I refuse to appeal. Free me unconditionally or carry out the sentence. I will not appeal in order for you to lose my case again in an administrative labyrinth”, Mrs. Zahra Behnoudi, the wife of Mr. Aqajari was quoted by the semi-official Students news agency ISNA on her husband’s decision not to appeal.
A University professor and Islamist reformer, Mr. Aqajari was condemned two years ago to capital punishment for blasphemy, insulting Muslim’s prophet Mohammad and the Shi’a hierarchy, saying, during a conference at this city, that people are not “apes to follow blindly what the clergy tells them.
“I refuse to sign the notification of the verdict and I refuse to appeal. Free me unconditionally or carry out the sentence. I will not appeal in order for you to lose my case again in an administrative labyrinth”
His view was a seen as an attack on the both the country's ruling Islamic establishment and the very person of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, a junior cleric made overnight Ayatollah after he was elected by the Assembly of Experts on August 1989 to replace Grand Ayatollah Roohollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic.
The court in its ruling, also condemned him to 74 lashes, ten years of ban from professional activities and seven years of exile in a remote village, but did not say if the bans would take effect before or after the application of the death sentence.
The Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), the Iranian students largest organization that had organized nation-wide demonstrations against the original decision pronounced on November 2002 warned the authorities that it would renew the actions in support of Mr. Aqajari if the sentence is not removed and the academic set free “without conditions”.
In a statement, the OCU condemned the confirmation of the sentence as a “shameful and mediaeval punishment”, adding that the sentence pronounced against Aqajari is an action by the leader controlled Judiciary “against freedom in general but also all the militant students condemned to heavy penalties”.
The court in its ruling, also condemned Aqajari to 74 lashes, ten years of ban from professional activities and seven years of exile in a remote village, but did not say if the bans would take effect before or after the application of the death sentence.
According to Mrs. Behnoudi, her husband had told her that the verdict, a confirmation of that handed down by the same judge in the western city of Hamadan, was dated the second half of August last year. The second sentence, announced last week, ignored objections raised by the Supreme Court to the original decision, newspapers quoted Aqajari’s lawyer Saleh Nikbakht as saying.
Mr. Nikbakht said he has been officially told of the re-imposition of the death penalty, but added immediately that the Hamadan judge failed to “clear any points that were signaled as shortcomings by the Supreme Court”.
“The judge has issued the ruling without clearing up those deficiencies in line with the orders of the State Supreme Court, and this amounts to a ruling against the Supreme Court”, the lawyer explained.
Iran’s top judicial authorities are thought to be anxious to avoid a repetition of the protests at home and abroad that followed the original death sentence on the respected scholar, a disabled war veteran who lost a brother during the eight-years long Iran Iraq War.
For this reason, on order from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the Supreme Court later annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the provincial court for review, but the provincial court re-imposed the death penalty earlier in May.
According to some sources, Ayatollah Khameneh’i has told the head of the justice department to re-examine “as quickly as possible” Mr. Aqajari’s file.
Giving no source for its report, the semi-independent students news agency ISNA said in a dispatch that Mr. Khameneh’i is “seriously unhappy” about the delay in the case.
ISNA reported that the leader, who has the last word on all state matters, was angered by the decision to re-issue the death penalty and called on the judiciary to review the verdict.
However, an unidentified source from the Judiciary contradicted, saying the leader had issued no instructions about the case of the convicted academic.
“As far as we are concerned, the beloved leader has always stated that the case must follow its legal path”, the source said, according to some press reports.
Mr Aqajari is currently being held in Evin prison in Tehran, where he is serving a four-year sentence imposed in place of the death penalty by the Supreme Court. ENDS AQAJARI SENTENCED 18504