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Iran Conservatives Bent On Punishing Outspoken MP

Iran - Mahmoud Sadeghi , outspoken MP.

Iran’s influential Guardian Council (GC) has pressed charges against Tehran's outspoken MP, Mahmoud Sadeghi, who has accused the council of "financial corruption", GC's spokesman disclosed on Friday, December 6.

Speaking to Tasnim, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei maintained, "The GC is absolutely reluctant to sue anybody, but the MP's comments are tied to the ruling establishment and the council's prestige."

In a letter to Tehran's Prosecutor-General, a copy of which has been published by Sadeghi, the GC has asserted that Tehran's representative to Majles (parliament) has attributed “unfounded remarks to the honorable members” of the council and accused them of receiving money for approving candidates to run in various elections.

According to Islamic Republic laws, citizens cannot just announce their candidacy and run for elections. The GC should first vet prospective candidates and approve them. Sometimes even very prominent regime insiders are disqualified if the GC, which is close to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, disqualifies them.

"The MP was initially asked to present evidence to support his comments, but, since he did not table anything, the case was referred to the Justice Department for further investigation", Kadkhodaei reiterated.

In a tweet last Wednesday, Sadeghi had insisted, "Fortunately, a number of people who had been asked to pay bribes in exchange for [GC] endorsement… are prepared to testify in front of the supervisory board of elections."

Sadeghi has a record of challenging GC and enraging the influential council which all its twelve members are directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei.

In a fiery speech addressed to an open session of parliament on December 17, Sadeghi had sparked a heated debate among his fellow pro-reform and conservative legislators by criticizing the Guardian Council (GC) for disqualifying competent candidates.

Lambasting the GC, he had noted, “By disqualifying merited candidates, the Guardian Council has not allowed figures brave enough to fight corruption to have a seat in the parliament.”

Furthermore, he had maintained that Iran has hopelessly fallen into a “corruption trap” where there is no will for combatting corruption.

“Why is parliament devoid of the serious will necessary for fighting corruption? Why are we cooperating with corrupt figures, and why are we afraid to publicly name those who have astronomical overdue debts [to the banks]?” he said.

Sadeghi, a former cleric, and scholar at Qom Seminary, asked his fellow legislators, “Are we the essence of the nation’s virtues? [No,] we are the essence of the Guardian Council’s virtues.”

However three days later, during another open session of Majles, Sadeghi made a U-Turn and said, “Based on Article 99 of the Iranian Constitution, the Guardian Council is responsible for supervising the elections...and referrals to the public vote and referenda,” adding, “There is a solid logic behind this article and as I have repeatedly said, I believe in the GC’s right to qualify or reject candidates.”

Sadeghi, however, criticized recent limitations imposed on the authority of the parliament, including restrictions on its right to investigate matters related to the GC and the Assembly of Experts.

“The point is reducing parliament’s realm of authority. We are not allowed to investigate any case related to the GC or Assembly of Experts. These limitations have reduced the level of the parliament’s authority and its output,” Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Sadeghi as saying.

Sadeghi’s comments on December 20 were widely interpreted as an attempt to downplay his fiery speech from a few days before.

But now once again he is in hot waters, as the conservative establishment seems determined to discipline the outspoken MP.