Iran has freed a leading political prisoner jailed for publishing a survey indicating that Iranians favored resuming dialogue with their supposed archfoe the United States, his lawyer said Friday.
Abbas Abdi was sentenced in 2003 to 4 1/2 years in prison for “selling intelligence to the enemy,” referring to the poll, which found that three-quarters of Iranians wanted their country to have a dialogue with the U.S.
But Iran’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the United States was not officially defined as an enemy, and Abdi was released after 30 months in prison.
“This is an unprecedented ruling, because five senior judges, including a cleric, suggest the United States is not an enemy,” said Abdi’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht.
Abdi was one of the student leaders who took dozens of U.S. diplomats hostage at their Tehran embassy in 1979 and held them for 444 days. Like many of the former hostage-takers, Abdi became a reformist advocating warmer ties with the West.
Washington severed relations with Iran in 1980 as a result of the hostage crisis, and any suggestion of talks with the U.S. is highly sensitive.