Iran General NewsIranian students will be released soon, lawyer says

Iranian students will be released soon, lawyer says

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New York Times: Three politically active students who had been sentenced to two to three years in prison for crimes including insulting the nation’s supreme leader are expected to be released this week on bail, their lawyer said Tuesday. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: December 26, 2007

TEHRAN — Three politically active students who had been sentenced to two to three years in prison for crimes including insulting the nation’s supreme leader are expected to be released this week on bail, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The three were part of the pro-democracy movement at Amir Kabir University, a center of political activity and dissent. Students there chanted, “Down with the dictator,” when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited last year, forcing him to cut short a speech. They protested again when he visited this year.

The students’ lawyer, Muhammad Ali Dadkhah, said an appeals court technically overturned their convictions on the insult charges last week. But each student must post bail of $85,000 to be freed because all are awaiting a ruling on a separate appeal of convictions over jeopardizing national security.

All the charges stemmed from the publication of a student newsletter last spring that carried articles that violated a law against “insulting religious sanctities.” One article raised what were seen as offensive questions about the return of the 12th Imam, the messiah in Shiite Islam.

The three students charged, Ahmad Ghassaban, Majid Tavakoli and Ehsan Mansouri, acknowledged that the newsletter was offensive, but said that they had not published it, arguing that people opposed to their political activity had forged it to defame them. Five other students arrested on the same charges were released on bail months ago.

The three have been in jail since May, and their families have said they were being kept under harsh conditions in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, student Web sites reported. Last week, the appeals court dismissed a ruling by a lower court two months ago that sentenced Mr. Tavakoli to three years in jail, Mr. Ghassaban to two and a half years, and Mr. Mansouri to two years, their lawyer said.

He said that they were expected to be released Saturday, but that Mr. Tavakoli’s family had not raised the bail.

“The other two are waiting to post their bail at the same time with Mr. Tavakoli in a sign of unity,” he said. “Mr. Tavakoli’s family will hopefully bring the money tomorrow.”

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