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Iranian reformist Abtahi bailed after sentencing

Mohammed Ali Abtahi gives evidence at trial, file picture from August 2009
Mr Abtahi is one of the most high-profile reformists to be convicted

A former Iranian vice-president has reportedly been released on bail having been convicted of fomenting unrest after June's disputed elections.

The leading reformist, Mohammed Ali Abtahi, had earlier been sentenced to six years in jail, reports said.

Around 80 people have been jailed and five sentenced to death over the unrest that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed poll victory.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for government restraint.

"The government should not intimidate people to change their path," he was quoted as saying on his Kaleme website.

Mr Mousavi, who was Mr Ahmadinejad's leading challenger for the presidency, has vowed to continue the struggle against what he says was a fraudulent election.

"This movement will continue and we are ready to pay any price," he said.

Forced confession?

Mr Abtahi has been temporarily released on bail of 7bn rials ($425,000), Iran's official Irna news agency reported on Sunday.

Under Iranian law, people sentenced to more than three months in jail can be released on bail pending appeal.

Mr Abtahi's lawyer said his client - who served as vice-president under former President Mohammad Khatami from 1997-2005 - had 20 days to appeal against the verdict.

Iranian government riot police and protesters in Tehran (14 June 2009)
The UN has criticised harassment of the opposition since the election

Irna quoted an unnamed court official as saying: "Abtahi was sentenced to six years in prison for acting against national security and propaganda activity."

Mr Abtahi had been in custody since he was detained shortly after the 12 June polls.

In August, Mr Abtahi was quoted by Fars news agency as telling his trial: "The issue of fraud in Iran was a lie and was brought up to create riots."

Tried alongside a number of other reformist figures, he said the aim of the post-election protests had been to create a "velvet revolution", referring to the overthrow of Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

Mr Abtahi also appeared on television admitting to provoking riots, but his family said the statements were made under duress.

Mosharekat, Iran's biggest reformist party and a leading backer of Mr Mousavi, dismissed the proceedings as a "laughable show trial".

UN resolution

The protests after June's disputed polls were the largest mass demonstrations seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution, which brought the current Islamic regime to power.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, file picture from June 2009
Mir Hossein Mousavi has said opposition protests will continue

On Friday, a key UN committee voted to approve a non-binding resolution condemning Iran for its post-election crackdown.

The resolution also repeated annual criticism of Iran's human rights record, including the use of torture and a rising number of executions.

It urged Tehran to end persecution of political opponents and release those imprisoned for their political views.

Iran's UN ambassador dismissed the resolution as politically motivated.

At least 30 protesters have been killed in clashes and thousands arrested since the elections. Some 200 opposition activists remain behind bars.

Foreign media, including the BBC, have been restricted in their coverage of Iran since the election protests turned violent.



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