Iranian dissident returns home after six years in jail

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The Independent Online

Iran's most prominent political dissident, Akbar Ganji, has been released from prison after six years behind bars for criticising some of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic.

Mr Ganji, a journalist, was jailed in 2000 after writing articles linking senior officials to the serial killings of political dissidents in 1998. His articles targeted the powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's President from 1989 to 1997.

A cheerful but thin and heavily bearded Mr Ganji yesterday welcomed reporters into his Tehran apartment. He stuck to pleasantries and avoided politics. "Thanks for coming," he said, grinning. "I am so sorry it is such a small place."

Lawyer Youssef Mowlaie said Mr Ganji had been released late on Friday evening. But he predicted a legal wrangle over whether he would have to return to Tehran's feared Evin prison for a few more days. Mr Mowlaie said he reckoned his client's jail term ended on 17 March, but the judiciary disagreed.

Mr Ganji spent stints in solitary confinement and fell gravely ill in July, weakened by a hunger strike aimed at persuading the authorities to release him. The reporter's case sparked outrage in the US and Europe.