x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ex-member of Ahmadinejad entourage arrested in Iran

Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh. an ally of Mr Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whom conservatives accuse of leading a 'current of deviation' aimed at undermining the Islamic regime, was arrested 'because of financial charges and numerous [other] cases.'

TEHRAN // Iran has arrested a former member of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's entourage who was recently forced out of a diplomatic post, Fars news agency and a judiciary source said yesterday.

"Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh was arrested several hours ago," Fars said, without naming its source, while the judiciary source confirmed the arrest and state television said the judiciary "will soon issue a statement."

He was arrested "because of financial charges and numerous [other] cases in the judiciary," Esmaeel Kosari, and MP and member of parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, told the Mehr news agency.

The foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, appointed Mr Malekzadeh as deputy foreign minister on Saturday but was forced to accept his resignation three days later after MPs launched proceedings to impeach Mr Salehi for the appointment.

Before his short-lived tenure at the foreign ministry, Mr Malekzadeh was a senior official in the high council of Iranian foreign affairs, run by Mr Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whom conservatives accuse of leading a "current of deviation" aimed at undermining the Islamic regime.

The parliamentarians maintained that Mr Malekzadeh has a number of legal cases pending against him concerning "financial and non-financial" issues, and that he is "from the deviation circle."

Conservatives, the Shiite clergy and the Revolutionary Guards have repeatedly called for Mr Mashaie's dismissal, accusing him of being too liberal, too nationalist and of exerting too much influence over the president.

Mr Ahmadinejad has so far adamantly defended his aides, including Mr Mashaie. The rift between Mr Ahmadinejad and the conservatives surfaced in mid-April when he challenged a ruling by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who vetoed a decision by the president to sack the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi.

Mr Ahmadinejad withdrew from public life for 10 days, igniting a bitter dispute with the conservatives supporting the supreme leader.