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Iran court sentences students for insulting Islam

[JURIST] An Iranian court sentenced three university students to prison terms ranging from two to three years for insulting Islam and Islamic clerics, the students' lawyer said Tuesday. Officials arrested the students [AFP report], Majid Tavakoli, Ahmed Ghassaban and Ehsan Mansouri, in May along with five other students on charges of endangering national security and insulting Islam. Lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said the trial opened September 22 and closed Tuesday with sentences of three years in prison for Tavakoli, two-and-one-half years for Ghassaban and two years for Mansouri. Dadkhah, a human rights lawyer who is part of the team of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi [Nobel profile; JURIST news archive] team, said he is unsure whether the court intended suspended terms or prison time. The students all attend Amirkabir University of Technology [official website] in Tehran and are leaders of Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (the Office for the Consolidation of Unity) [HRW profile], the largest-known Iranian student reform group. Group officials and the three students maintain [AFP report] that the newsletter that contained the "insults" was made by more conservative people to frame the group. Dadkhah said the students plan to appeal the judgments.

Iran has recently made a number of high-profile arrests of scholars accused of endangering national security, including Iranian-American Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [JURIST news archive]. Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was arrested in May, detained for over 100 days, but was released on bail and left Iran [JURIST reports] in September. Charges against her still stand. AP has more.

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