TEHRAN - Iranian dissident intellectual Hashem Aghajari, condemned to death for blasphemy after questioning the power of the clergy, is to have his case re-examined after next month's parliamentary elections, a judiciary official said Tuesday.
"To preserve calm before the elections, the examination of the case of Hashem Aghajari will be made after the voting and in the Iranian New Year," which begins March 21, the Iran newspaper quoted Zekrollah Ahmadi as saying.
The official is the head of the right-wing judiciary in Hamedan, the city where Aghajari was sentenced to death and where his case is to be heard again.
In the summer of 2002, the disabled war veteran and history professor delivered an explosive speech in Hamedan directed at the very core of Iran's 25-year-old Islamic regime.
Aghajari called for a "religious renewal" of Shiite Islam, espoused a major structural shake-up in Iran's religion of state, and asserted that Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" religious leaders.
For powerful hardliners, those comments were seen as a frontal assault on the Shiite doctrine of emulation and the status of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran's supreme leader.
In November 2002, a judge in the western city of Hamedan ruled that Aghajari had committed blasphemy and, in line with Islamic and Iranian law, deserved to die.
But following a week of protests by students and complaints by reformist government officials, Khamenei stepped in and demanded the sentence be reviewed.
In January 2003, the supreme court annulled the verdict and ordered a re-trial.
Aghajari had been held in Hamedan, but has since been shifted to the notorious Evin prison in north Tehran.
"It has been a year since the court should decide," complained one cleric and MP, Nasser Ghavami, who heads the reformist-held parliament's justice commission.
"Mr Aghajari was condemned to death, and what new verdict could be so severe that it causes problems during the elections?" he asked.