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The Pressure On Ahmadinejad And His Allies Continues

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) alongside his aides speaking at a gathering in a shrine near Tehran on Saturday November 18, 2017.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his close allies are still looking for a hattrick to stay in the game. They have even tried the age-old tactic of taking refuge in a holy shrine, but it failed to achieve the desired result.

Their ephemeral sit-in protest at the Shi’ite holy shrine of Shah Abdol-Azim in Shahr-e Rey, southern Tehran, ended when an alleged bunch of plainclothesmen stormed the shrine and battered the supporters of the former two-time president.

The clash garnered the outcome the attackers wanted: end your show or expect more to come.

For Ahmadinejad’s trio of supporters -- his former deputy president in executive matters, Hamid Baghaei, close aide Ali Akbar Javanfekr, and his chief accountant, Habibollah Khorasani -- the message was crystal clear. The sit-in was a nonstarter.

Even Ahmadinejad’s presence and his vitriolic speech against the influential Larijani brothers did not attract the needed public attention.

Ahmadinejad and his supporters submitted to the police for the sake of appearances, declaring they were ending their sit-in lest the “rogues” disturb the peace of pilgrims and insult the Shi’ite sacred mausoleum.

However, the bitter experiment of the trio deepened when they heard that the managing editor of a website supporting Ahmadinejad, Dolat-e Bahar (The Government of the Spring) had been detained.

The website reported on November 21 that Mohammad Hossein Heidari had been arrested and would be kept behind bars until raising 1 billion rials (roughly $30,000) in bail.

The website had already maintained it had been blocked by the authorities for publishing Ahmadinejad’s acerbic attacks against the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, and his brothers.

It was also reported that Ahmadinejad’s official website has been shut down by security officials.

Meanwhile, the court in charge of trying Baghaei held a session in his absence, declaring the end of legal procedure.

“The judge has asked some questions, and as soon as the answers are received he will issue his verdict,” Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on November 22.

Baghaei sarcastically responded on Twitter, writing, “End of what legal procedure? Sham indictment! Formal phony trial! Assigned Judge! The verdict, ready to be typed! May you never get tired Messrs. Sadeq Larijani [the head of judiciary], Sheikh Hossein Ta’ib [a cleric in charge of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps intelligence department] and Hassan Rouhani.”

Baghaei was first arrested for embezzlement in 2015 but, according to Ahmadinejad’s close allies, he was later freed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s special order.

Once again, last July, Baghaei was detained but later released on a large bail.

Currently, another close ally of Ahmadinejad, Esfandyar Rahim Mashshayee, has also been summoned to court for allegedly insulting the supreme leader, offending the ruling system’s officials, and spreading false information.

Ahmadinejad has also been accused of corruption.

On July 30, the head of the Audit Court announced seven verdicts against Ahmadinejad, but the full report was not made public.

At the time, the former president dismissed the charges and threatened to disclose a “cowardly scenario” by “bands of power and wealth.” He alleged that a “cabal” was waging war against the former leading officials of his administration.

The Iranian Parliament’s Audit Court announced on October 18 that Ahmadinejad, in the last 18 months of his presidency, spent approximately $1.3 billion of Iran’s oil income illegally.

On November 22, parliament’s news website published the report of the court about “oil related infractions” of the Ahmadinejad government.

The court ordered the former president to repay $1.3 billion to the treasury. The ruling maintains that that during Ahmadinejad’s tenure oil revenues were spent without proper transfer from the Oil Ministry to the treasury.

Although the court has found Ahmadinejad directly responsible, it has not issued any other measures against him.

The Audit Court has limited powers of punishment. It can reduce an official’s pay or at most fire officials from government jobs, but it is not empowered to issue harsher verdicts.

Ahmadinejad has always maintained that his administration has been the most transparent and cleanest government Iran has ever had.