Iran frees activists for Iranian New Year holiday

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran released a prominent opposition politician as well as three activists and a filmmaker detained for suspected involvement in the country's postelection turmoil, a relative and local media said Thursday.

Mohsen Mirdamadi, the leader of the country's biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was temporarily freed late Wednesday on $450,000 bail, his son Ali told The Associated Press.

Iran traditionally releases some prisoners before the New Year holiday, which begins March 21 and normally ends April 4. While the semiofficial ISNA news agency said Mirdamadi's release came within the framework of the holiday leaves, it also can be seen a part of an effort by the Iranian government to ease tensions in the country.

Iranian security forces arrested Mirdamadi on June 13, a day after the country's disputed election that won President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second four-year term.

Mirdamadi was among more than 100 prominent political figures and activists who were put on a mass trial following the crackdown on opposition supporters who claim Ahmadinejad won the election by fraud.

Before his release, Mirdamadi was the most senior opposition leader left in prison.

But other political figures, including Davood Soleimani, Feizollah Arabsorkhi and Issa Saharkhiz, as well as human rights activist Emadoddin Baghi and several journalists are still in jail.

Internationally renowned filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was detained earlier this month, also remains in custody.

The official IRNA news agency also reported Thursday that authorities released filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, journalist Ali Akbar Montajabi and female activist Farzaneh Qassemi, all of whom were detained in recent weeks.

The report said Rasoulof was freed on bail, but IRNA did not provide details on the release of Montajabi and Qassemi.

The opposition web site Kaleme also reported Thursday that authorities released another journalist, Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, who had been in jail since June.

Iran has already handed down verdicts on more than 80 of the people put on the mass trial, sentencing nine of them to death and the rest to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years. Most of the cases, including the death sentences, are now in appeals court.

In January, Iran executed two members of a monarchist group who were arrested before the election but put on the same postelection mass trial in August.