Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stepped up his battle with the judiciary by trying to bring in the Supreme Leader.
Ironically — given that the regime put down mass protests after the disputed 2009 election to keep Ahmadinejad in office — the former President has made a series of statements this month seeking to bring people out in a show of support for him.
In his latest challenge, he said in an open letter to the Supreme Leader:
Popular discontent about the conditions in the country and the judicial organs [has reached] an unprecedented level.
Today, unfortunately a mere minority…considers itself the absolute owner of the country, the revolution, and feudal lords of the people, with the unquestionable right to rule.
He asserted that the minority represents a “few families” — a reference targeting opponents such as head of judiciary Sadeq Amoli Larijani and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani — rejects all other opinions, and clamps down on freedom of speech.
The tension between Ahmadinejad and regime factions has escalated this autumn with judicial action against the former President and his allies.
In October, Parliament’s Audit Court found Ahmadinejad guilty of diverting $1.3 billion in State funds during his administration, ruling that he must repay the money.
While the ruling is largely symbolic and unlikely to be enforced, Ahmadinejad’s closest allies are facing prison in a long-running battle with authorities. Courts have summoned his former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who was detained for months in 2015 and briefly in July, and his former Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashai.
Two weeks ago Baghaei and two other senior Ahmadinejad advisors, Ali Akbar Javanfekr and Habibollah Khorasani, briefly claimed refuge in a sanctuary in southern Tehran. Ahmadinejad addressed a crowd outside, telling them, “We were not supposed to have a dictatorship run by the judiciary” and describing it as “more powerful than the Supreme Leader”. Last week Ahmadinejad released a video interview declaring that “the whole country is in danger” because of the judiciary’s poor performance and neglect of justice.
Ahmadinejad’s former 1st Vice President, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, is alreday serving a five-year sentence for fraud.
The Supreme Leader has made no comment on the latest round in the dispute between Ahmadinejad and regime officials.
Throughout his second term, from 2009 to 2013, Ahmadinejad was regularly feuding with the other branches of government. He not only denounced the Larijanis but also accused the Revolutionary Guards of corruption. In 2011, he staged a 11-day boycott of his duties when he was blocked by the Supreme Leader from taking over the Intelligence Ministry and personally leading it.