Prominent Iranian Dissident Released

TEHRAN, Iran- A leading Iranian dissident has been released after more than a year in detention, a close associate said Monday.

Ezatollah Sahabi, a leader of the National Religious Alliance, a liberal political group, was released on Saturday, said Farzaneh Roustaei, wife of another jailed dissident.

Sahabi was freed on a bail of $250,000, Roustaei said.

His freedom could not be immediately confirmed. The authorities are often slow to declare such releases.

Sahabi was among 40 dissidents arrested in December 2000 and charged with plotting to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

He stood trial along with 14 other dissidents in a closed-door hearing that began Jan. 8 at the Tehran Revolutionary Court. The case is continuing.

Roustaei said that her husband, Reza Raiis-Toosi, was currently in hospital suffering from back pain and a skin disease. Raiis-Toosi was among the 40 dissidents detained in 2000.

She said he expected him to go trial as soon as he recovered, charged with plotting to overthrow the establishment. It is not known why he was not a defendant in the case that began Jan. 8.

Iran has been caught up in a power struggle between conservatives and supporters of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The hard-liners have used their dominance of the judiciary and other government organs to detain a number of reformist journalists and academics and to close down liberal publications.