Top Iranian reformer jailed for six years - reports

Top Iranian reformer jailed for six years - reports

A reformist former vice president, who was arrested after Iran's disputed presidential election in June, has been sentenced to six years in jail, Iranian newspapers reported on Sunday.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, one of dozens of leading moderates detained after the poll and accused of fomenting widespread street protests and unrest, was officially informed about his sentence on Saturday, Jahan-e Eqtesad daily said, Reuters reported.

Abtahi, a cleric who was vice president for parliamentary and legal affairs during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami, would be the most senior reformer to be jailed so far after the election more than five months ago.

Other newspapers also carried news about his sentence, which was also reported by a reformist web site, Kaleme.

They cited his daughter Fatemeh Abtahi as saying security agents searched Abtahi's Tehran home in his presence on Saturday, after which he was taken to a court where he was told about his sentence and then returned to jail.

Iran's judiciary said last week that five people have been sentenced to death and 81 have received jail terms of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the poll, but it did not give names. The verdicts can be appealed.

The moderate opposition says the poll was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The authorities reject the charge and have portrayed opposition protests that erupted after the vote as foreign-backed.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed Ahmadinejad's election victory, has said it was a crime to question the vote.

Abtahi was a top adviser to pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi, who finished fourth in the June 12 election. Kaleme web site said his lawyer would seek his release on bail.

Thousands of people were detained after the vote, which plunged Iran into its most serious internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Most have since been released, but more than 100 remain in jail on charges of stoking post-vote unrest. The opposition has denounced trials against them as "show trials".

On Saturday, the head of a hardline political party, Mohammad Nabi Habibi, called for opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi to face trial for spreading the "big lie" of vote fraud.

Any legal action against Mousavi, who came second in the election and has vowed to press on with his drive for political reform in Iran, may trigger new street protests by his backers.

Other hardliners have also called for legal action against Mousavi, a moderate former prime minister.

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