TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A university professor who was twice condemned to death for blasphemy walked out of prison on Saturday night, free after a two-year battle with hard-line judges and mass student demonstrations in his favor.

Hashem Aghajari emerged from Evin prison in north Tehran to a warm welcome by more than two dozen relatives and friends, his daughter Maryam Aghajari told The Associated Press.

“Finally, my dad is free,” she said. The prominent reformist writer Emadeddin Baqi was among those who greeted her father.

A professor at Tehran’s Teachers Training University, Hashem Aghajari was prosecuted for a speech in June 2002 in which he urged people to question religious teachings, saying the words of clerics should not be considered sacred simply because they were part of history. He said people should not slavishly follow hard-line interpretations of Islam.

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