Thursday, July 22, 2004

Al-Zahra University head asks for Aghajari's unconditional freedom

Karroubi thanks leader for ordering revision of Aghajari's case:

"Al-Zahra University head asks for Aghajari's unconditional freedom

Tehran, Nov 17, IRNA -- Head of Tehran's Al-Zahra University here on Saturday asked the country's judiciary to free the outspoken war veteran university Professor Seyed Hashem Aghajari.

In a communique issued by Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, a copy of which was faxed to IRNA, we read, "Dr. Aghajari's lecture in Hamedan can by no means be interpreted as insulting against the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), or even the Islamic sanctities."

Rahnavard has further emphasized, "thoughts need to be criticized, analyzed, and debated, while deviating them and treating them harshly, such as sentencing those who express them to prison terms, or death, is the most inappropriate possible way to deal with them."

She added, "Aghajari is a man whose youth was passed devotedly at the service of defending Islam, liberties, and exalted human values."

Dr. Rahnavard emphasized, "among the men and women of letters and sciences in Iran, no one has slightest doubt about the sincerity and devotion of Professor Aghajari in his devoted defense of Islamic values and humanity."

The university professor said, "although there are points to be criticized in his lecture, and I do not agree with him on certain points, but it is most surprising for me to see how Aghajari's remarks are so easily deviated from his intended purposes, how naively and unscientifically they are criticized, and how contrary to the truth, his devoted defense of the infallible Imams (AS) is being introduced to the society as 'insulting the Prophet'!"

She adds, "All such injustice is done in the name of defending the religion and in efforts aimed at justifying a totally baseless verdict."

Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees of the Al-Zahra University announced in a separate letter issued on Saturday that their colleague, Fatemeh Beygomzadeh who had on Wednesday approved of the death sentence against Professor Aghajari has merely announced her personal viewpoint, and had no right to speak on the behalf of the rest of the professors who are fully opposed to the verdict.

A court in Hamedan has sentenced university professor Hashem Aghajari to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammad. The local court has further sentenced Aghajari to exile in desert cities of Tabas, Zabol and Gonabad and banned him from teaching for 10 years.

Speaking at a memorial service to commemorate prominent Iranian intellectual, late Dr. Ali Shariati in Hamedan, Dr. Aghajari had criticized the Islamic principle of emulation (Taqlid) from religious leaders, arguing that the people are not monkeys to emulate.

Aghajari who stirred up a row after calling for religious reforms in Iran was summoned to appear before court for alleged insults to the Islamic sanctities soon after his controversial speech.

Aghajari's remarks triggered an outrage among many hardliners who called on the judiciary to take action against him who is meanwhile a prominent member of the Islamic Revolution's Mojahedin Organization (IRMO).

The death sentence issued against the university professor, too, has outraged the university students across Iran, who have been staging strike after strike in protest against the verdict.

President Khatami on his part condemned the verdict late last week, saying it cannot be carried out, at any rate.

The majority of Iranian parliament members, too, have seriously condemned the verdict, and Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi on Saturday called the death penalty against him "a shame for the country's judiciary system.

Also two of Hamedan Constituency MPs presented their letters of resignation to show their objection to the verdict issued by their constituency's court."