TEHRAN // Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been put "under a spell" by his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, an ultra-conservative cleric was quoted by local media yesterday as saying.
"I've told some of my close friends that I am more than 90 per cent certain that [Ahmadinejad] has been put under a spell. This is not natural at all," Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, believed to have once been a mentor of the president, told the weekly Shoma.
"No sane person does such things unless his free will has been taken away," Mesbah Yazdi said in reference to a crisis that has erupted since mid-April between Mr Ahmadinejad and the hardline conservative camp close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"His actions have no justification. When he has 10 friends, does it make sense to constantly defy nine of them and defend (the actions of the) tenth person?" Ayatoally Mesbah Yazdi asked in an allusion to Mr Mashaie.
Mr Mashaie, the president's top adviser and close relative who has worked alongside Mr Ahmadinejad for more than 25 years, has been the target of a barrage of criticism from the conservative camp in recent weeks.
Mr Mashaie, who has been condemned for being too liberal, holding nationalistic views dating back to pre-Islamic Iran, and for having a great influence on the president, is now accused of leading a "current of deviation" aimed at destroying the Islamic regime.
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi said he sensed a "great danger" lingering over Mr Ahmadinejad because of Mr Mashaie.
"I do not know if it is (because of) hypnotism, a spell or relations with yogis. But there is something wrong," said Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.
"It is almost as if this questionable person [Mr Mashaie] has put this man [Mr Ahmadinejad] under a spell, as if he has wrapped him around his finger," he said.
The conservatives also accuse Mr Mashaie of orchestrating the attempted sacking of the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, in mid-April, which was vetoed by the supreme leader.
The aborted dismissal triggered an unprecedented political crisis in the higher echelons of Iran's regime, with Mr Ahmadinejad expressing his displeasure by withdrawing from public life and official duties for 10 days.
Several conservative websites have recently hinted that he may be connected to the practice of dark magic, while the judiciary has announced the arrest of two "sorcerers", stopping short of linking them to Mr Mashaie.