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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 17:38 GMT
Iranian students clash with hardliners
Students carry a wounded man from university protests
Fighting reportedly broke out at the end of a speech
Thousands of Iranian students demanding political reform have clashed with hardline militia groups in the capital, Tehran.


Our problem is not only the revision of the death sentence on Hashem Aghajari, but freedom of speech and freedom in general

Student leader Abdollah Momeni
Witnesses said about 5,000 students gathered at the Sharif Technical University campus to protest against the death sentence passed down to pro-reform academic Hashem Aghajari earlier this month.

Fighting between the two sides is said to have broken out towards the end of a speech by a student, when several hundred hardline militants entered a hall in the university where the students were and began punching and kicking them.

The group later dispersed, but some of the students were reported to have sustained light injuries.

Review

Outside the university, police maintained a heavy presence, reportedly restricting passage into and out of the campus.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mohammed Khatami
CONSERVATIVES:
Leader: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Power: The real power in Iran. Controls the hard-line Guardians Council, which approves all laws, the judiciary and armed forces
Where they stand: Committed to Islamic revolution. Opposed to any reduction in their powers and normalisation of relations with the US

REFORMISTS:
Leader: President Mohammed Khatami
Power: Control the parliament and enjoy widespread popular support
Where they stand:
Back greater democracy, reducing the power of the Guardians Council, and reform to the legal system


The protest was held despite an order at the weekend by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that Mr Aghajari's sentence should be reviewed.

Some students said that the intervention did not go far enough in satisfying their demands.

"Our problem is not only the revision of the death sentence on Hashem Aghajari, but freedom of speech and freedom in general," student leader Abdollah Momeni told French news agency AFP.

Fighting also broke out on Sunday between the two groups at the university.

BBC correspondents say Ayatollah Khamenei's decision to order a review of Mr Aghajari's sentence indicates how seriously the authorities view the protests.

War veteran

Monday's demonstrations are the latest in a series in support of Aghajari, who lectures in history.

Hashem Aghajari
Many feel it unlikely the death sentence will be carried out

He was found guilty of renouncing Islam on 7 November after saying in a speech that each generation should re-interpret aspects of Islam rather than blindly follow religious leaders.

Last Friday, hardliners held counter-protests where about 1,000 people called for his execution, many of them dubbing him "Iran's Salman Rushdie".

Reformists see the prosecution as the latest in a long line of moves against liberal figures by the hardline judiciary.

The BBC's Jim Muir reports that it was unthinkable in Iran that the death sentence would actually be carried out.

A war veteran who lost a leg in the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Hashem Aghajari belongs to a left-wing reformist political group, the Islamic Revolutionary Mujahidin Organisation.

See also:

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