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Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Iran jails opposition members
Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini at a hardliners' rally
The Movement denies conspiring against the regime

In Tehran more than 30 members of a previously tolerated Iranian liberal opposition group have been sentenced to prison terms of up to ten years.

Ibrahim Yazdi
Yazdi: Challenged right of court to ban and dissolve the Freedom Movement
The arrest and prosecution of the members of the Freedom Movement last year was condemned by international human rights groups.

The revolutionary court also said that the movement has been officially banned and dissolved.

Full details of all the sentences have not yet been released, but the revolutionary court announced that a total of 33 officials and members were given prison terms ranging from four months up to ten years.

Court challenge

The leader of the Movement, Ebrahim Yazdi, said that at least five of the group's senior officials had been given severe sentences of between eight and ten years.

Woman protester with tape over her mouth holds reformist newspaper
The sentences come as tensions between reformists and hardliners are running high
Mr Yazdi himself, who returned to Iran in April from receiving cancer treatment in the United States, faces court proceedings which have not yet led to a trial.

He told BBC News Online that he could not understand why the court should issue such heavy sentences at a time when everybody in the country wanted to see the level of tensions reduced.

He said the movement would appeal the decisions, and it has 20 days to do so.

Mr Yazdi also challenged the right of the revolutionary court to dissolve and ban the movement.

According to the political parties act, he said, such decisions could only be taken by an open session of a regular court held with a jury.

'No grounds'

The Freedom Movement was accused of conspiring to change the Islamic regime, a charge it has strongly denied and for which the country's intelligence minister said there were no grounds.

At the time of Mr Yazdi's return from the US, some conservative factions showed interest in mending fences with his group.

He is also on good terms with some of the reformist factions.

But if the revolutionary court has its way, the Freedom Movement, which wants liberal reforms to the Islamic system, will cease to have any role at all.

The Movement is one of the country's oldest political groupings.

Mr Yazdi himself was foreign minister in the first government to follow the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Several of those sentenced to jail also held high official posts in the early days of the republic.



See also:

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