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Five Iranian Dissidents Released

March 7, 2002

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Five prominent Iranian dissidents have been released from jail on bail, four of whom had spent nearly a year in detention, the country’s official news agency reported Thursday.

Khosrow Mansourian, Hashem Sabbaqian, Abolfazl Bazargan, Mohammad Tavassoli and Mahmoud Naeimpour were freed Wednesday night, each on a bail of $250,000, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

All but Naeimpour were detained in April 2001 on charges of plotting to overthrow the establishment, the wife of Mansourian, Fatemeh Farhang-Khah, told The Associated Press. It is not known when Naeimpour was arrested.

The five men are leading members of the National Religious Alliance, a liberal political group opposed to Iran’s hard-line clerics. The group advocates nonviolence and seeks fundamental political reforms within the Islamic establishment.

This is not necessarily the end of the story. Mansourian, Sabbaqian and Bazargan went on trial last month in a closed-door hearing, and that verdict has not yet been issued. It’s not known whether Tavassoli and Naeimpour have yet been on trial.

Bazargan is the nephew of the late Mehdi Bazargan, who briefly served as prime minister after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Sabbaqian was interior minister in Bazargan’s government.

Earlier this week, Ezatollah Sahabi, a leader of the National Religious Alliance, was released on bail. He had been detained in December 2000.

Iran has been caught up in a power struggle between religious liberals and conservatives that intensified since the 1997 election of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The popular president was re-elected last year for another four-year term.

Religious hard-liners who control key institutions, such as the judiciary, have stalled Khatami’s efforts to ease religious restrictions and allow more political freedom for Iran’s predominantly young population.

Since early 2000, the hard-liners have launched an onslaught against Khatami and his supporters, closing down nearly every liberal publication, jailing and intimidating journalists, academics and activists, and lately jailing legislators who dared to criticize the heavy-handed tactics.

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