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Iran professor says sentenced over nuclear dispute

June 19, 2014

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian university professor has been sentenced to a year in jail for questioning the country’s nuclear policy, he said on his Facebook page Thursday.

Sadegh Zibakalam, a prominent professor of politics at Tehran University, said a court sentenced him late Wednesday to 12 months in prison over an open letter to the editor of a hard-line daily in which he questioned Iran’s nuclear program.

“What have been the benefits of the nuclear program for development, growth and economic improvement of the country?” Zibakalam wrote in his letter to Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the hard-line Kayhan daily, in late January.

He went on to ask whether it was right to “spend billions for the nuclear program” when the country is wrestling with high unemployment and economic stagnation, among other challenges.

Iran’s nuclear program has been at the heart of a decade-long dispute with Western nations, which have imposed sanctions on Tehran, accusing it of seeking nuclear weapons. The government has always insisted its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Zibakalam said he got another six months for questioning the sentencing to death of a billionaire, who was executed in May over bank fraud. He had suggested the judiciary was more interested in responding to public opinion than in probing the case and implementing justice.

The professor said he immediately appealed Wednesday’s verdict.

The 66-year-old liberal professor has a history of questioning the policies of hard-liners in Iran through his Facebook page, pro-reform media and events at various universities.

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