TEHRAN -- Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized Tuesday the flogging of a student activist who was convicted of insulting him.
Peyman Aref, 29, described how he was chained to a prison wall Sunday in Tehran and lashed 74 times with a leather whip for insulting Ahmadinejad.
Aref was arrested days after Ahmadinejad's hotly disputed re-election in 2009. In March last year, he was sentenced to a year in Tehran's notorious Evin prison for spreading propaganda against the regime.
He was sentenced to be lashed for sending a letter to Ahmadinejad that complained about university purges, failed to address the president with due respect and suggested that his government was illegal. Aref also was banned for life from journalistic or political activity.
Ahmadinejad spoke out against the decision, saying that more influential people were guilty of saying worse things, AFP reported.
"Since influential people can freely defame us, I disapprove of flogging a young man for insulting the president," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with regional governors, according to an official text message sent by the government information office.
When Aref protested that lashing was illegal, he was told "We are the law here," and his interrogator ordered him to be beaten with an intensity normally reserved for "serious" offenses such as adultery, sodomy and drinking alcohol.
"I gritted my teeth. I didn’t scream because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of hearing a single cry from me,” he told The (London) Times.