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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2005, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Rafsanjani wants dissident freed
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Akbar Ganji (left) and a picture purported to be of him in jail
Ganji has been hospitalised and can no longer walk unaided
Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has appealed to the judiciary to free an imprisoned writer who has refused food for 49 days.

Mr Rafsanjani is the latest in a growing list of people, including US President George Bush, who have called for Akbar Ganji to be released.

His family say his health is deteriorating fast.

Akbar Ganji went to jail for implicating top officials in a series of political assassinations.

Mr Ganji has been drinking only tea and water for the duration of his hunger strike.

Although he is hospitalised, doctors say there is little they can do as he refuses medication.

His family are due to hold a prayer meeting for him in the evening.

Few options

It was during Mr Rafsanjani's presidency that Mr Ganji wrote about the political assassinations.

In a strange twist, Mr Rafsanjani has now said he feels sorry for Mr Ganji and has made some recommendations to the judiciary about how to resolve the case.

Another senior politician who stood in the recent presidential elections, Mehdi Karroubi, is also reported to have asked Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to intervene.

But the spokesman for the judiciary has said the only way Mr Ganji could be freed is if he requested a pardon.

The writer has refused to do this, for fear of renouncing what he wrote.

Meanwhile, one of Mr Ganji's lawyers has complained to the judiciary that his house was searched last week in violation of the constitution, and his family harassed in the process.

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