June 2004 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A death sentence against an Iranian history professor for allegedly insulting Islam was reinstated in May.

In November 2002, Hashem Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran teachers' college, was convicted of insulting Islam and questioning the rule of clerics. Aghajari was sentenced to receive more than 70 lashes and condemned to death. The sentence sparked large student demonstrations and criticism from President Mohammad Khatami.

In a rare move, Iran's supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged the court to reconsider the professor's conviction. The Iran Supreme Court lifted the death sentence in early 2003.

But a court in the western province of Hamedan reviewed the case and in early May reimposed the professor's death sentence, the Associated Press reported. Hamedan's chief judiciary officials said the Supreme Court would again look at the verdict, and Aghajari's attorney said the "sentence is not final."

President Khatami has again criticized the court that initially issued Aghajari's death sentence, saying the professor had done more for the country than "that inexperienced judge who unjustly accused him of apostasy."