Ahmadinejad’s visit to prison denied as political feud widens

Ahmadinejad’s visit to prison denied as political feud widens

Ahmadinejad’s visit to prison denied as political feud widens

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C), accompanied by Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi (R) and Ali Akbar Velayati, waves to the media as he leaves Mehrabad Airport in this photo. AP Photo

Iran’s judiciary has rejected a request by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, its spokesman said Oct. 21, calling the request’s timing inappropriate, in another indication of Ahmadinejad’s waning authority in the country.

Ahmadinejad’s request to visit Evin, made public this month, was seen by Iranian media and commentators as linked to Ali Akbar Javanfekr’s detention although there has been no official confirmation that this was the case. The judiciary turned down the request, saying it was not in the best interests of the country as it faces an economic crisis which parliamentary rivals blame on mismanagement by Ahmadinejad as much as Western sanctions.

‘Not appropriate’

“As we are faced with special circumstances and the country’s priorities are the economy and people’s living conditions, all authorities should focus on solving key issues ... visiting a prison is extraneous,” said Chief Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie. “More than seven years of his presidency have passed, and no request was made during that time,” he said, according to the ISNA news agency. “If we have in mind the best interests of the nation, a [prison] visit in these circumstances is not appropriate.” Mohseni Ejeie, who also acts as the judiciary’s spokesperson, suggested that Ahmadinejad’s sudden interest in Evin was linked to “a person affiliated to [the government] in prison,” an allusion to the president’s press advisor, Javanfekr.

According to Iranian media, Ahmadinejad had planned a visit Oct. 8 to Evin, most of whose inmates are political prisoners. Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad’s press advisor and head of the country’s state news agency IRNA, was sent to Evin in September to serve a six-month sentence for publishing an article deemed offensive to public decency. He was also convicted of insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei on his personal website.

Javanfekr’s jail sentence was the latest sign of a widening rift between the president’s supporters and hardliners backing Khamanei. 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 the clergy in the Islamic establishment. Ahmadinejad has seen his influence wane within Iran’s factionalized political structure following a public spat with Khamanei in 2011. The feud between Iran’s elected and unelected leaders erupted publicly last year after Khamanei, who holds ultimate power, reinstated Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, who Ahmadinejad had fired.

Conservative rivals of Ahmadinejad say his administration has mishandled a currency crisis and other economic fallout from the sanctions levied against Iran’s disputed nuclear program. According to Iranian law, Ahmadinejad is not allowed to run for a third term in the June 2013 presidential elections.