Prominent Iranian dissident released in France

An Iranian opposition leader has been released from a French prison—an imprisonment that an Ottawa woman protested by burning herself to death.

An Iranian opposition leader has been released from a French prison—an imprisonment that an Ottawa woman protested by burning herself to death.

Maryam Rajavi was released Wednesday on a judge's order. She was arrested last month along with 150 other supporters, most of whom have been released.

Her supporter, Neda Hassani, was buried Monday at a politically charged funeral attended by about 500 people. She set herself ablaze on June 19 to protest against the arrest and detention of Rajavi, Iran's most prominent dissident-in-exile.

Rajavi is a leader in the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, also known as Mojahedin e-Khalq Organization (MKO). It has been fighting to overthrow the theocratic government of Iran for more than 20 years.

Canadian members of the group said the deaths of Hassani and others were regrettable, but had the desired impact.

"That had a great effect. It showed the commitment of people to the cause," said Sharam Golestani, a Mujahedeen organizer in Ottawa.

"The cause is very clear. It's not for any one person. It's for freedom."

Besides Rajavi, seven other people set themselves on fire. Those who died are considered martyrs. About 1,000 people in France and another dozen in Ottawa are conducting hunger strikes.

The European Union and the United States have branded the MKO a terrorist organization.

Mahmoud Ajakh, an Ottawa supporter, said Hassani's actions showed the group was not a terrorist one.

"Neda was an example. She chose to hurt herself but not anyone else, just to show how serious we are about our leadership."