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Iran Reduces Playwrights’ Sentence

January 19, 2000

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ An appeals court has reduced the prison sentences imposed on two Iranian students convicted of writing a blasphemous play, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Mohammad Reza Namnabat and Abbas Ne’mati will now serve one year in prison instead of three years, the Farsi-language daily, Iran, reported.

The judge also agreed to the release of two others convicted in the case, the newspaper said. It did not say when the court made the decision or give its reasons.

The Tehran Public Court sentenced Namnabat and Ne’mati in November after convicting them of ``blaspheming Islam″ by writing a satirical play. The play was published in August in the magazine Mowj, a journal of the Amir Kabir Technical University in Tehran.

The two others, Alireza Aqai and Hamed Ahangari, who had been sentenced to six months and four months in prison respectively, were ordered released after they asked to be pardoned, the paper reported.

Hard-line clerics condemned the play as defamatory to the 12th Imam, one of the holiest figures of Iran’s majority Shiite Muslim population. The conservatives also used the play to condemn President Mohammad Khatami for allowing greater freedom of expression. A senior police chief threatened to kill the play’s authors.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, defused the tension by ordering the hard-liners to back off.

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