Saleh Nikbakht, his lawyer, said he has 20 days to submit an appeal against the verdict.

Nazanin Ansari, the editor of Kayhan newspaper, based in London, said: "They are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the opposition ... it is not as if Abtahi has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bail and is free to leave prison, he is not and will not be a free man."

The re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused extensive protests by Iranians who felt the vote was fraudulent.

Many people were reported killed in the government crackdown and at least 1,000 political activists, journalists and other were detained.