Iran Professor's Sentence Cut to 4 Years

.c The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A university professor whose death sentence was repealed after nationwide protests will serve just under four years in jail, his lawyer said Sunday.

Hashem Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran's Teachers Training University, is also barred from running for office or occupying a government post for five years, lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told The Associated Press.

Aghajari was convicted of insulting Islam and questioning clerical rule during a speech in western Iran last June. Last November, he was condemned to death, banned from teaching for 10 years, exiled for eight years to three remote cities and sentenced to receive 74 lashes.

Iran frequently issues multiple sentences in cases where it wants to make an example of the accused.

Aghajari's sentencing last November provoked the biggest student protests in Iran in three years and highlighted the power struggle between the country's liberals and hard-liners.

He initially said he would not appeal the death sentence, challenging the judiciary to carry it out. But his lawyer filed an appeal over his objections.

Iran's Supreme Court lifted the death sentence in February, saying the charges were inconsistent with Aghajari's speech, and returned the case to a lower court for review.

The new sentence puts him in jail for three years, 11 months and 29 days. The verdict also suspends the previous sentence of 74 lashes.

Nikbakht said the appeals court issued its verdict on April 26 and that he was notified on June 9. He said did not announce the verdict because it coincided with student-led protests against the ruling Islamic establishment.

``I would have been accused by the judiciary of inciting public opinion,'' he said.

Nikbakht criticized the verdict as ``an insult to justice and the judiciary.'' He said the appeals court ruling made new charges against his client, including libel and spreading lies.

Nikbakht said he appealed the new sentence earlier this week. It was not immediately clear if this would be Aghajari's last appeal.

Both parliament and President Mohammad Khatami had denounced the death sentence. But hard-liners, who dominate government bodies such as the judiciary and police and accuse reformists of undermining the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution, defended the sentence.

Also Sunday, the editor of the reformist daily Yas-e-Nou said two of the paper's journalists had been detained.

Vahid Pourostad and Hossein Bastani were detained Saturday evening, Mohammad Naimipour said.

Naimipour, a prominent lawmaker, gave no further details. but relatives said the two were arrested on charges of threatening national security.

Prominent student leader Saeed Razavi Faqih was arrested Thursday on similar charges, relatives said. Faqih had organized student protests to condemn Aghajari's death sentence.