TEHRAN – 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.
Ganji, a journalist, was jailed in 2000 after writing articles linking senior officials to the serial killings of political dissidents in 1998.
His articles particularly targeted powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997.
A cheerful but thin and heavily-bearded Ganji welcomed reporters into his Tehran apartment. He stuck to pleasantries and sidestepped politics.
“Thanks for coming,” he said, grinning. “I am so sorry it is such a small place.”…
Ganji spent stints in solitary confinement and fell gravely ill in July, weakened by a hunger strike aimed at persuading authorities to release him. The reporter’s case sparked outrage from the United States and European Union.
Ganji, born in 1959, was a devoted follower of the 1979 Islamic revolution and served in the hardline Revolutionary Guards. He has been criticised for his propaganda work and his surveillance of Iranian student activities in Turkey.
However, his political views changed sharply and his letters from prison broke two of Iran’s biggest taboos, both criticising the system of clerical rule and levelling personal attacks on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei…