PHOTO: Mana Neyestani’s portrayal of the fight between head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani and President Rouhani
Iran’s regime has tried to quell a dispute between President Hassan Rouhani and the head of the judiciary, warning that it is only helping the Islamic Republic’s “enemies”.
Prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, using guidance from the Supreme Leader’s office, said senior officials should “avoid disputes which will only serve the interests of foes”, and declared that Iran “needs unity now more than ever”.
Rouhani and judiciary head Sadegh Larijani have sparred over corruption in the past week, following this spring’s “payslips scandal” over Government salaries and bonuses and an MP’s accusations from September that Larijani has diverted public funds for personal use.
On Monday, Larijani tried to turn attention to the President by alleging that billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani — imprisoned and facing a death sentence for embezzling billions of dollars in Government revenues — had helped finance Rouhani’s 2013 campaign for the Presidency.
Rouhani’s senior advisors denied the claim, and the President responded by demanding more transparency in the judiciary. But the judiciary’s spokesman, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, refused to back down: on Wednesday he implicitly repeated the allegation over Zanjani: “[Rouhani] should also tell the public how much he has spent during the presidential elections and from which sources and people he has received money.”
The Tehran Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, then stepped up the challenge to Larijani and “some judges”: “Iran has a judiciary that has entered the valley of corruption after several years….The judicial branch today has a dire need for revolutionary, pure, and religious judges.”
Ayatollah Khatami told all sides to quiet down, since the outcome of such domestic debates is that the country’s enemies “say that corruption has been systematized in Iran”.
Four months before the Presidential election, the cleric issued the regime’s standard call for a high turnout to defeat Iran’s foes, claiming that “enemy plots” will seek to “polarize” Iranian society.
In a further call for reconciliation — and possibly a caution to Rouhani — Khatami warned that the “enemy” is targeting Iranian legal institutions, particularly the judiciary.