Recent controversial cartoons published in an Iranian newspaper stirred emotions between conservatives and reformists just days before Parliamentary elections.
Cartoonist Nik Ahangh-Kosar, of the pro-reform Azad newspaper, was released from prison last Thursday, following his arrest for sketching controversial cartoons. He was freed on bail upon appearing before a press court judge, BBC news reported.
Mr. Ahgangh-Kosar was remanded into custody following three days of protests by thousands of students and theological students in the holy city of Qom. The cartoonist was remanded to Tehran's Evin prison for the caricature of a crocodile crushing a troublesome writer - a depiction which protestors insisted was a direct insult of conservative cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. His other cartoon portrayed a fat plutocrat demanding that a poor young man, wielding a pen, disclose where he had hidden his money - an attack on the Islamic establishment, protestors declared.
Protestors criticized moderate culture Minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, for creating a permissive environment for such depictions. For conservatives, the caricatures showed the anti-clerical propensity of the reformist newspapers and constituted "an attack on Islam and Islamic values".
In response to the protests, Azad newspaper published a notice of three-day voluntary publication suspension to ease the tensions. Publishers also published an apology, claiming no harm was intended. The International Human Rights group, Reporters sans Frontieres, reportedly backed the cartoonist, who faced between a month and a year in prison, as well as 74 lashes.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)