The Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic (SCI) has dismissed a lower court verdict against a conservative politician and former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander.
Salman Khodadadi, 57, was sentenced to two years' exile, a two-year ban on serving in public office, and 99 lashes for having an illegitimate affair with a woman who killed herself while the court was trying the legislator.
The body of Zahra Navidpour, 28, was discovered on January 6 in her mother's house in Khodadadi's constituency in Malekan. Many believed it was murder to silence the young woman while local authorities said it was a suicide.
Earlier, Navidpour had released a video and audio clips accusing Khodadadi of sexually assaulting her when she sought Khodadadi's assistance to find a job approximately four years ago.
Navidpour had said she gave evidence to the IRGC's Intelligence Organization, the Intelligence Ministry, and the Guardian Council but received no response.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said on January 8 that documents left by Navidpour showed that several other women had also been raped by Khodadadi but did not file complaints out of fear for their lives.
However, Khodadadi appealed the verdict, claiming that he has diabetes for years, which made him sexually impotent.
"I have never had an illegitimate affair, and I was trying to help the young woman," the hardline MP claimed.
Dismissing the verdict against the conservative legislator has triggered a barrage of criticism on social media.
While journalists and civil rights activists are charged with political crimes and sentenced to long prison terms it is surprising that criminals close to the state bodies are acquitted, users have argued on social media.
Khodadadi has served five four-year terms in Iran's parliament, but he has been a controversial figure due to multiple sexual-abuse allegations.
He is a veteran of the IRGC and also served in the Intelligence Ministry.