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Judicial CP - March 1999

Reuters, 18 March 1999

Flogging sentences in Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Six Iranians have been sentenced to 18 months in jail and 228 lashes of the whip for goading people to dance in the streets at an annual festival in a conservative religious city, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The six had blocked roads with bonfires and forced passers-by to dance during Chaharshanbe-Souri, an ancient Zoroastrian feast held Tuesday ahead of the Iranian new year, which starts Sunday, the Qods daily said.

The court in Mashhad, where a revered Shi'ite Muslim saint is buried, passed the sentence after also convicting the six of disrupting public order, harassing women and consuming alcohol.

On the night of the festival, Iranians let off firecrackers and leaped over bonfires, in the traditional belief it would dispel evil spirits and purify them ahead of the new year.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the occasion has been a cause of tension between Islamic hard-liners, who see the ceremonies as a pagan relic and superstition, and secular-minded Iranians keen on preserving the popular pre-Islamic tradition.

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