Trial begins of journalist accused of insulting ruling clergy of Iran
The trial of reformist journalist Hashem Aghajari, accused of offending Iran's ruling Shiite Muslim clergy, formally opened behind closed doors in the western city of Hamadan on Saturday, IRNA news agency reported.
A court statement cited by the official Iranian news agency said the public was being excluded "to prevent the propagation of evil and any threat to the religious sentiments of the population."
The statement further warned the media against "political exploitation" of the trial, insisting the court would not be swayed by "pressures and blackmail".
Aghajari, a supporter of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, sparked a storm of protest amongst conservatives and hard-liners back in June by saying that Muslims "should not blindly" follow their religious leaders.
His speech stirred demonstrations in the clerical strongholds of Qom and Mashhad, and calls from conservatives for an "appropriate reaction" to his "blasphemous" comments.
The journalist was released on bail after a July 14 hearing, however was later re-arrested after being charged with the more serious offence of "insulting the prophets", which carries the death penalty. (Albawaba.com)
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