Iran Religious Court Weighing Evidence Against Reformist Cleric
Iran's conservative religious court has concluded its closed-door trial of an ailing pro-reform cleric facing a battery of serious charges, the state IRNA news agency said Monday.
It cited the prosecutor's office of the Special Court for Clergy (SCC) saying that the verdict on Hassan Yusefi-Eshkevari would be delivered after a final review of the evidence after the trial ended Saturday.
Earlier IRNA cited a source at the court saying that he had been found guilty of charges including apostasy and "waging war against Islam," which could carry the death penalty, but the agency later retracted its story.
Instead it said later that Eshkevari is facing accusations of blasphemy and "denial of the absolute facts of Islam and Islamic teachings," which it said included the strict dress code for women required under Iranian law.
The outspoken cleric reportedly challenged whether Islam requires women to keep their heads and bodies covered at a seminar in Germany earlier this year on the future of reforms in Iran.
All attendees of the conference now in Iran are believed to be facing charges. Eshkevari was arrested after his return to Tehran in August.
His participation in the controversial conference has also landed him the charge of "committing acts against the security of the country which are tantamount to armed struggle against the Islamic republic," IRNA said.
Eshkevari has also been charged with insulting the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Islamic Iran, as well as other crimes, IRNA said.
More than 300 Iranian activists signed an open letter Saturday calling on President Mohammad Khatami to intervene in the case and various human rights groups have blasted the closed-door hearings.
A conservative newspaper earlier this month reported that Khatami himself had privately "voiced his abhorrence" over the case in a meeting with MPs.
Eshkevari is ill with diabetes and rights groups have charged that he has been denied both a medical check-up in prison as well as the attorney of his choice before the court. He is being held in Tehran's Evin prison.
The SCC is independent of the nation's judiciary and comes under the direct control of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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