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Iranian Dissident Tells Court He Did Not Insult Clerics

Aghajari (right) is back in an Iranian court (file photo) 5 July 2004 -- The retrial continued in Tehran today of Iranian academic Hashem Aghajari, an academic whose was initially sentenced to death for apostasy before Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini reversed the verdict.

Aghajari is being retried on lesser charges of insulting religious sanctities and could face five to 10 years in jail -- where he has already spent nearly two years, much of it in solitary confinement.

The Tehran University professor today said he was criticizing certain clerics and not insulting them when he said Muslims should not blindly follow religious leaders in his original speech. Aghajari said criticism should not be interpreted as an insult, and he rejected the charges against him.

Aghajari reiterated his faith in Islam and his support for the Islamic Republic of Iran.