Iran Reformer Sentenced to Jail, Exile and Fine

An Iranian court convicted an opposition activist of working against the ruling system and insulting the country's supreme leader, sentencing him to 20 months in jail, an opposition website reported Wednesday.

Ahmad Ghabel was also given additional sentences of three years' exile, a ban on interviews and lectures during that time, and a fine for possessing a satellite receiver. His laptop was also confiscated.

Two other liberal-minded activists were arrested Wednesday, another opposition website reported.

Hashem Sabbaghian, a former interior minister and a top member of the outlawed Freedom Movement of Iran, and Hojjatoleslam Soleimani, a reformist cleric, were detained by security forces.

Soleimani was speaking at a religious ceremony held at Sabbaghian's house in Tehran when security forces stormed the building and arrested them, opposition website reported.

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The ceremony was to commemorate the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most beloved saints.

In the case of Ghabel, the opposition website,, said a hardline Revolutionary Court in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, found him guilty of insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Any criticism of Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is interpreted by authorities as insulting the supreme leader.

Ghabel is a prominent member of the now outlawed Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist political party. He is considered a key link between reformers and top Shiite clerics in Qom, a center of political and religious power located about 80 miles south of the capital Tehran.

He was arrested last December while driving to Qom with his family to attend the funeral of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Iran's most senior dissident cleric.

Ghabel, one of Montazeri's followers, was freed on bail after spending 170 days behind bars. He was re-arrested in the summer after he exposed mass killing of prisoners in Mashhad, said.

"The reason behind the re-arrest of this researcher is because of his exposure of secret mass executions at Vakilabad prison in Mashhad and his criticism of the supreme leader," the site said.

The verdict against Ghabel was issued Tuesday. He has 20 days to appeal.