3 December


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TEHRAN, Dec 6 (AFP) - Reformist Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who is serving a six-year jail sentence for "threatening national security", has been allowed out on parole for the first time since his imprisonment 20 months ago, a friend said Thursday. "I attended the press court yesterday and got permission for his release for five days on 500 million rials (62,500 dollars) bail", reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz told AFP. Ganji, 45, an outspoken journalist who worked for now-banned reformist papers, had accused officials close to former president Akbar Heshemi Rafsanjani of involvement in in the murder of dissidents in late 1998. Saharkhiz also said that Emadeddin Baghi, another jailed reformist journalist had similarly obtained five days home leave from jail, a common practice in Iran. The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) said that jailed cleric Hassan Yussefi-Eshkevari, imprisoned after saying women must be given freedom to decide whether to keep their heads covered in line with Islamic tradition, spent two days with his family this week. Eshkevari, who faced a charge of insulting Islam, was initially sentenced to death by a clerical court, but the penalty was commuted on appeal. Since a crackdown on the nation's pro-reform press in April 2000 by the nation's conservative-led judiciary, some 20 reformist newspapers and numerous other publications have been suspended. Some 15 journalists, supporters of moderate President Mohammad Khatami who has advocated freedom of expression, have been jailed on a variety of charges, including propaganda against the regime, and threatening national security.

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