Ahmadinejad’s adviser sentenced, rift deepens

Ahmadinejad’s adviser sentenced, rift deepens

Ahmadinejad’s adviser sentenced, rift deepens

Supreme Leader Khamanei (L) is seen with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a ceremony in this file photo. Ahmadinejad’s press adviser Javanfekr, who has been sentenced six months in jail, was convicted of insulting Khamanei on his personal website. EPA photo

A close aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of the country’s state news agency (IRNA) started a six-month prison term on Sept. 26, an apparent sign of the continuing feud between the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr was one of several Ahmadinejad aides targeted by hard-line rivals last year who accused the president of being in the grip of a “deviant current” of advisers seeking to undermine the role of clergy in the Islamic establishment. Javanfekr, who runs a state press group that prints several newspapers and magazines, is a media adviser to Ahmadinejad.

The sentence relates to Javanfekr’s conviction last November for publishing an article about Islamic dress that was deemed offensive to public decency, IRNA reported. He wrote in an official publication that the practice of women wearing a head-to-toe black covering known as a chador was not originally an Iranian practice but was imported. This was considered offensive by hard-line Iranian clerics.

He was arrested and taken to Evin prison just as the Ahmadinejad was addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “I, too, received the news moments ago, and I will give my opinion on the matter after analyzing the issue thoroughly,” Ahmadinejad said in New York. “I wish no one was imprisoned throughout the world, particularly if he or she is a member of the media,” he added, according to IRNA.

In January, Javanfekr was also convicted of insulting Khamanei on his personal website in April 2011.

The court also banned him from any kind of occupation or press activity, including governmental and private ones, for three years. Javanfekr resisted an attempt by the judiciary to arrest him last November when his loyalists clashed with law enforcement forces inside the building of his office. Ahmadinejad reportedly intervened to stop the imprisonment of his close ally and confidant.

Blow in local elections

The arrest of the IRNA chief is another challenge to Ahmadinejad, whose conservative rivals had won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in a first round of legislature voting in March. Of 65 seats up for grabs in May’s runoff election, Ahmadinejad’s opponents won 41 while the president’s supporters got only 13 seats.

The feud between Iran’s elected and unelected leaders erupted in public last year after Khamanei reinstated Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, who Ahmadinejad had sacked. Earlier this year, Ahmadinejad became the first president in the history of the Islamic republic to be summoned to Parliament to face a grilling by hostile MPs. Speculation that he faced impeachment has since proven unfounded and he is now expected to see out his last year in office. A presidential election is scheduled to be held on June 2013 to elect Ahmadinejad’s successor, as he will not run for a third time.

Javanfekr’s incarceration comes days after authorities also imprisoned the son and daughter of an influential former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is seen as a moderate voice in the regime isolated by hardliners. Ahmadinejad is due back in Tehran at the end of the week.

Meanwhile, authorities shut down a moderate newspaper late Sept. 26 after it published a caricature that hardliners have interpreted as insulting to war veterans. The daily Shargh was ordered closed by the Press Supervisory Board over the caricature, state TV’s website reported. The judiciary has shut down more than 120 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities since 2000.

Compiled from AP, AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.