Middle East

Iranian dissident freed on health grounds

File - Iranian dissident Mehdi Khazali, poses for a picture in this August 28, 2012, who has been freed on health grounds after going on hunger strike while he was serving a six-year prison sentence for acts against national security and spreading propaganda against the regime. AFP PHOTO/ETEMAD NEWSPAPER/MARYAM MAJD

TEHRAN: Iranian dissident Mehdi Khazali, who was serving a six-year prison sentence for acts against national security and spreading propaganda against the regime, has been freed on health grounds. The official IRNA news agency quoted Khazali’s lawyer as saying that the 48-year-old inmate was hospitalized after going on hunger strike, and that the authorities had decided that he was too ill to return to jail.

Khazali was arrested on Jan. 9, 2013 for the third time in two years and released on bail in June the same year. But he was arrested again last month and sent to jail to serve his sentence.

A doctor by profession and a veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Khazali is the son of Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, an important religious figure known for taking ultraconservative positions.

Ayatollah Khazali has disowned his son’s views, including his criticism of Iran’s human rights situation.

The younger Khazali regularly criticized former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a personal blog, but also on the BBC’s Persian service and Voice of America radio, which are banned in Iran.

Khazali was also arrested in 2009 for taking part in a protest against the controversial re-election of Ahmadinejad.

Fifteen dissidents were pardoned last September, a month after President Hassan Rouhani took office on the back of an election win which had the support of moderates and reformers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 15, 2014, on page 9.




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