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Hardliner Cleric Declares Assets In Bid To Clear Corruption Charges

Iran -- Mohammad Yazdi, is an Iranian cleric who served as the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts

In an unprecedented interview, an influential cleric and a high-ranking Iranian official has talked about his wealth in response to rumors about his son's financial activities.

“I am prepared to give up all my assets in exchange for 30 million rials,” (approximately $710), Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi told state-run Mehr News Agency.

While denying that he owns several gas stations, factories, and other properties, the 88-year-old Yazdi insisted he has no involvement with his children’s activities.

Yazdi, who has been a member of the influential Guardian Council since 1988, also presided over the Iranian judiciary for a decade (1989-99).

He also responded to accusations that his son was hired by Iran’s all-powerful judiciary, arguing that this took place through “legal procedures” and that he had heard several convicts praising his son as a "pious judge."

A heated debate over Yazdi's son and his financial corruption was initially triggered by revelations by Abbas Palizdar, who was the secretary of the Judiciary Inquiry and Review Committee of the Iranian Parliament in 2008.

Palizdar claimed in 2008 that Yazdi, while presiding over the judiciary, wrote a letter to the agriculture minister asking him to help his son, Hameed.

"My son, Hameed, has no job. Please take the necessary measures to let him benefit from the northern forests for exporting timber," Palizdar quoted Yazdi as writing.

Verifying the existence of the letter, outspoken political activist Mehdi Khazali disclosed at the time, "Under a contract, the ministry allocated 3,000 hectares of forests to Ayatollah Yazdi's son."

However, Khazali -- himself the son of another prominent ayatollah -- noted that several ultraconservatives had held a rally protesting the deal.

"Although Yazdi ordered the protesters detained, the whole scandal forced the authorities to cancel the contract with the Ayatollah's son,” he said.

Palizdar first made his accusations public in a talk held at Bu-Ali Sina University in Hamadan in May 2008.

On June 9, 2008, he reiterated his claims of corruption implicating some 44 senior clerics, government officials, and other key figures in the political establishment in an interview with Radio Farda.

Furthermore, an anonymous source at the Intelligence Ministry verified Palizdar's access to more than 100 high-level corruption cases under parliamentary review in an interview with the Entekhab News website in June 2008.

Palizdar's revelations enraged Yazdi to the extent that he demanded that he either apologize in person or be thrown into prison, Khazali claimed.

The judiciary sentenced the 51-year-old whistleblower to five years but released him on bond after eight months.

The second scandal implicating Yazdi was related to the launch of the judicial sciences college for women in the early 1990s.

To cover the expenses of the college, Yazdi wrote letters to the industry minister demanding a transfer of ownership of the Dena tire and rubber manufacturing company.

At the time, Dena was valued at around $200 million, but it was ultimately sold to Yazdi's new college for a mere $2.3 million, Palizdar said.

In his recent interview with MNA, Yazdi accuses several lawmakers and ministers of collusion to make money.

"Let me say without any hesitation, and let the MPs hear, as well: There is always collusion between some MPs and ministers," Yazdi said. "For example, the MPs call a minister asking him to provide the rights to a mine to them, their children, or their sons-in-law. They practically threaten the ministers with impeachment should their demands not be met."

He added that the “poor ministers” find themselves with no choice but to agree to the blackmail.

"Such dealings are against Shari'a (Islamic law) for both parties involved. God will ultimately punish them in his presence," Yazdi warned.