Reformist cleric Mohsen Kadivar, a leading theoretician of Iran's Islamic modernist movement, has been released after serving an 18-month jail sentence for political and religious dissent, reported Reuters.
Kadivar was released upon completion of his sentence, said the agency, adding that family members had expected his release on July 18th.
Kadivar, a popular seminary lecturer and close confidant of President Mohammad Khatami, was convicted in August 1998 by the hardline Special Court for Clergy of engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic and inciting public opinion.
The cleric was one of the intellectual pioneers of Iran's reform movement, which seeks to build a civil society within the existing Islamic system, Reuters said.
That effort has met harsh resistance from the conservative clerical establishment, which has used legal and religious sanctions in an attempt to silence its critics.
Kadivar's popularity appears to have survived intact. Pro-reform rallies frequently invoke his name. His sister, political activist Jamileh Kadivar, was the second highest vote-getter in February's parliamentary polls, which analysts ascribe in large part to her link to Mohsen, said the agency.
At the time, his arrest sparked peaceful student protests in Tehran and other cities, and reformist newspapers have openly challenged the legality of the clerical court.
The Special Court for Clergy is dominated by hardliners handpicked by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is independent of the judiciary.
Khamenei is widely seen to be close to hardliners in the establishment who are opposed to the cultural and social liberalization policies of the moderate Khatami, said the agency - Albawaba.com
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