Sunday, October 02, 2005

Iran Sentences Dissident to 5 Years in Jail for Trying to Topple Islamic System

A revolutionary court Sunday sentenced a prominent liberal political dissident to five years in prison on charges of trying to topple the Islamic system, his lawyer said. Mohammad Mohsen Sazgara was also sentenced in absentia to five years deprivation of his social rights, meaning he cannot take official posts or compete in elections.

Sazgara, who lives in the United States, co-organized an Internet-based referendum for Iranian people to vote for their favourite political system in a challenge to the Islamic republic earlier this year. READ MORE

"My client believes his charges are baseless and the revolutionary court is not qualified to handle his trial," said lawyer Shirzad Heidari, affirming that he would appeal the verdict.

Under the law, only civil courts are authorized to review political cases in the presence of a jury.

Sazgara managed several newspapers from 1997 to 2000 until they were banned by the hardline judiciary and advocated for regime change in Iran.

In 1999, Sazgara was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of publicity against the Islamic system but was released on bail after three months. He was nominated for the country's presidential campaign in 2001 but was barred from running by a constitutional watchdog.

Last week, Ali Afshari, a leader of the Office for Fostering Unity, Iran's largest reformist student group, was sentenced to six years in prison and five years deprivation from his social rights on charges of publicity against the Islamic system and activity in favour of foreign groups.