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The BBC's Jim Muir reports
"The sentences were harsher than expected"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rob Broomby
"The sentences have caused concern in the German capital"
 real 28k

Saturday, 13 January, 2001, 19:01 GMT
Iranian reformers jailed
Akbar Ganji
Akbar Ganji is one of Iran's leading investigative journalists
A court in Iran has imposed heavy prison sentences on a number of reformist intellectuals who attended a controversial conference on the country's future in Berlin last year.

Seven of the 17 defendants, including prominent campaigning journalist Akbar Ganji, were given prison sentences of between four and 10 years.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder has reportedly postponed his trip to Tehran
The sentences have provoked a strong reaction in Germany, with reports that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has cancelled a trip to Iran.

The Iranian ambassador has also reportedly been summoned for a meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

The Berlin conference was organised by the Heinrich Boell foundation, which has strong links with the German Green Party.

Conservative backlash

Its disruption by exiled opposition activists was seen as a direct challenge to the Islamic constitution by hardliners in Tehran.

Berlin conference
The conference was interrupted by anti-regime elements
The academics, translators and journalists were charged with undermining national security and making propaganda against the Islamic system.

Iranian conservatives were angered when state television showed footage of the protests, which included a man removing his clothes and a woman dancing with bare arms.

BBC Tehran correspondent Jim Muir says the sentences were harsher than expected and are bound to cause outrage among reformists and deep concern in diplomatic circles.

Appeal

Three of the accused received particularly severe punishment.

Prison sentences
Akbar Ganji: 10 years, plus five in internal exile
Saeed Sadr: 10 years
Khalil Rostamkhani: Nine years
Ali Afshari: Five years
Izzatollah Sahabi: Four-and-a-half years
Mehrangis Kar: Four years
Shahla Lahihi: Four years
Mr Ganji, who has made powerful enemies by his exposure of the killings of dissident writers and intellectuals by elements within the regime, was given 10 years' imprisonment and five years' internal exile.

A translator at the German embassy, Saeed Sadr, was also given a 10-year prison sentence, while another translator Khalil Rostamkhani was given nine years in jail.

A student leader, Ali Afshari, was given five years' imprisonment and an opposition leader, Izzatollah Sahabi, was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Feminists jailed

Two prominent and internationally known feminists, the lawyer Mehrangis Kar and the publisher Shahla Lahiji, received four year jail terms.

Others were given suspended jail sentences or fines, while six defendants were acquitted. The convicted have 20 days to lodge an appeal.

Another of the accused, liberal cleric Hassan Yousefi-Eshkevari, is being dealt with by a special religious court.

The case has been condemned as medieval by Iranian reformist groups and criticised by international human rights organisations.

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See also:

20 Apr 00 | Middle East
Court summons for Iranian reformists
14 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Backlash gathers pace
13 Jan 01 | Middle East
Conference that created a furore
04 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
23 Oct 00 | Middle East
Row deepens over Iranian cleric
21 Oct 00 | Middle East
'Moderate' paper faces Iranian court
13 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian MPs pledge to continue reform
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