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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Iran's pro-reform lawyers banned
pro-reform students demonstration in Tehran
The lawyers defended students injured in last year's riots
By Jim Muir in Tehran

Two of Iran's leading human rights' lawyers have been given suspended prison sentences and banned from working for five years.

They were accused of producing a defamatory video tape, alleging that prominent conservative figures supported activities of violent right-wing vigilante groups.

The case against Shirin Ebadi and Mohsen Rahami was heard behind closed doors.

Their prosecution was widely seen in pro-reform circles as part of a wider crackdown by the conservative judiciary on the reformist camp.

Many newspapers have been closed and several leading journalists arrested in the anti-reform crackdown.

Physical attacks

There was no official announcement of the verdict, but Mrs Ebadi confirmed newspaper reports that she and her colleague had been given suspended prison sentences of 15 months each and banned from practising for five years.

Iran women
Ehadi is well known championing children and women's rights
The man who appeared in the videotape, Amir Farshad Ebrahami, was sentenced to serve two years in jail.

He is a former member of a right-wing vigilante group.

Ebrahami alleged that its activities- physically attacking reformist rallies and personalities- were supported by a number of well known conservative figures.

The two lawyers said they had made the videotape in order to document the accusations. They were charged with propagating malicious lies.

One of the defence lawyers acting for them described the verdict as illegal and said there would be an appeal.

Violent disturbances

Mr Rahami has been a leading figure in two recent legal cases.

former interior minister and vice president, Nouri Abdullah
Mr Rahami defended former vice president Abdullah
He defended the former Interior Minister and vice president, Abdullah Noori, who is currently serving a five year prison sentence for dissidence.

Mr Rahami also represented students who were injured, or had property damaged, when riot police stormed their dormitory last year triggering several days of violent street disturbances.

Mrs Ebadi, for her part, is well known both at home and internationally for her role in championing the rights of women and children.

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See also:

10 Sep 00 | Middle East
Ayatollah's brother faces court summons
09 Sep 00 | Middle East
Reformist paper goes national in Iran
23 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iran embraces foreign business
20 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian police face universities ban
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