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Lawsuits, Duels Among Candidates As Election Nears

Apparently unhappy with their muscle-flexing in live TV debates, the three main contenders of the current presidential election in Iran have declared themselves ready for a debate duel.

During the third debate, attacks on former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s government record recurred so many times that one of President Hassan Rouhani’s main challengers, mid-ranking cleric Ebrahim Raisi proposed “a debate duel between Ahmadinejad and the president” to clear up the controversy over shortcomings and wrongdoings of the former president.

Earlier, Ahmadinejad, himself had demanded an equal airtime on Radio and TV to defend his record against the barrage of criticism Rouhani and his deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri, had assailed against him. The demand fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, dismissing the proposal to face Ahmadinejad, Hassan Rouhani, on his part, declared himself prepared for a one-on-one live TV debate against Raeisi, instead.

Now, three main contenders -- Rouhani, Raeisi, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf -- appear to be ready for a debate duel against each other. However, it is not clear whether the proposals are going through.

The contenders also appear resolved to sue their rivals in the courts of law.

“Whatever Jahangari accused me of were based on lies, and I am going to sue him for presenting false statistics,” said former police chief commander and currently Teharn Mayor Ghalibaf.

“Jahangiri repeated the allegations that were already dismissed by the justice department. Therefore, I have been left with no option other than to officially ask him to face me in a court of law,” he said.

Jahangiri, during the third debate, accused Ghalibaf of generously transferring astronomical amounts of Tehran’s municipal lands to his conservative friends to curry favor.

“What did you do with the people’s estates? You gave away 22 trillion tomans (around $5.5 billion) of the country’s estates [to your friends] and asked them to pay the price in 20 years,” he said.

Furthermore, Jahangiri, referring to a hearing session on transferring Tehran municipality estates and lands, said: “The attorney general declared that he had spotted 59 cases of law violation in the procedure.”

Returning to the Tehran mayor, Jahangiri directly addressed him again.

“Why did you stop the parliament to probe and investigate the case? Why did you stop the City Council to go for an inquiry?” he said.

Last September, several Tehran City Council members accused the mayor of law violations in selling more than 2 trillion tomans worth of municipality estates and lands with a 50 percent discount to City Council members, municipality employees, several radio and TV reporters, and the Justice Department’s Housing Fund.

Publishing a leaked report concerning the sellout in Me’mary (Architecture) news website, in late 2016, led to the detention of its editor, Yashar Soltani.

Tehran Attorney General declared that dozens of people were summoned and questioned in relation with the case.Nevertheless, no reports concerning the outcome of the inquiry has been published yet.

Referring to the whistle blower Yashar Soltani and his arrest, Jahangiri once again addressed the mayor: “You have committed the most imaginable violations. You established [illegal] credit corporations. You have also transferred the municipality owned Bank Sarmaye (Capital Bank) to a corrupt person.”

Ghalibaf, on his part, accused Jahangiri of approving bonuses worth billions for himself and his colleagues during his tenure as a minister.

At the onset of the presidential campaign two weeks ago, it was widely believed some candidates from both political sides would pull out in favor of the leading candidates. This could still happen, but so far all six candidates seem to be fully committed to campaigning for the May 19 vote.