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Posted Saturday, July 3, 2004

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TEHRAN, 3 July (IPS) Mr. Hashem Aqajari, an Iranian scholar and islamist thinker that had warned Iranians not to follow the clerics “blindfold” was saved from death after a court that was trying him on Saturday dropped charges of blasphemy and heretic.

Contrary to his expectations, the trial was held public, with the presence of his lawyer, Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, his wife and the press.


"People are not monkeys to follow the clerics blindfold", Mr. Aqajari told a conference


A Tehran University history professor, Mr. Aqajari was sentenced to death two years ago in a court in the western city of Hamadan for blasphemy, after he told a conference that “people are not monkeys to follow the clerics blindfold”.

The speech was seen by fundamentalist ayatollahs as a direct attack on them and their privileged position, on he Shiite concept of emulation, on the very core of the Islamic Republic and above all, the very concept of the velayat faqih, or the absolute rule of the leader as the representative of God on earth who cannot be questioned and t

The sentence sparked massive uproar in Iran, students staged demonstrations in his support and the intelligentsia sharply criticised the Judiciary, as the international community, including the European Union, was also pressing the Islamic Republic to drop the charges.

As a result, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the present Iranian regime who controls directly the Judiciary demanded that Aqajari’s case to be reviewed, but the Hamadan court defiantly upheld its original ruling and the Judiciary waited for months before bowing to the leader, who’s decisions and rulings must be carried out without delay or discussion.

While dropping the apostasy charges, the deputy general prosecutor, Reza Ja’fari uphold accusations of “insulting Islam, activities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic and dissemination of false information disturbing the public opinion.

"The accused has defended opium-stained ideas of (Karl) Marx stating that religion is the opium of the governments and states", said the prosecutor


Mr. Aqajari, appearing weak, beard grown and wearing a skin hat, rejected all the charges and hoped that this would be his last trial.

“Considering all the pressures, I doubt you could be a neutral and independent judge”, he told Judge Mohammad Eslami, who had confirmed that the disabled war veteran who was held for months in solitary confinement no longer faced death penalty for having suggested that time has arrived for Islam to be also reformed.

Besides having pronounced the death sentence, the original court had also condemned the islamist reformer, often compared with Martin Luther, to 74 lashes of the whip, 10 years of ban from all professional activities and 8 years of solitary exile in a remote village.

“Mr. Aqajari, repeating Marx, argue that religion is the opium of the governments, but if this is the case, how come that in the past 100 years all the oppositions had came from the religion”, the deputy general prosecutor told the audience, without explaining what he meant?

“The accused has defended opium-stained ideas of (Karl) Marx stating that religion is the opium of the governments and states (sic); he has said that when a state cracks down on the science and religion, such a state is not a religious and Islamic; he has said that in a religious state, men are slaughtered on the name of God and religion and has dubbed the Council of Guardians to a form of political apartheid and said that when religion sits with power and wealth, it loses its values”, Hojjatoleslam Ja’fari told the court, charging the academic of “propaganda against the regime and insulting Islam”.

Using the unexpected public audience, Mr. Aqajari complained about his treatment in detention, asking "How can you put a history professor in solitary for more than 10 months, sometimes making him mate to criminals?".

"We have to see what the result is", he told reporters briefly after the hearing, adjourned until Monday.

Commenting the trial that was unexpectedly held public, to the point that even the accused had ignored it before the last minutes, observers said the Judiciary, being under heavy domestic and international pressures for the appalling situation of human rights, wanted to give itself “one positive point”. ENDS AQAJARI TRIAL 3704


Mr. Aqajari entering the courtroom for his re-trial held unexpectadley public


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