TEHRAN, Iran – A midlevel government official supportive of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s political faction was arrested Wednesday for making public accusations of corruption against several top clerics, the Iranian Fars news agency reported.
Iranian media accounts said Abbas Palizdar gave two speeches at universities in the Iranian cities of Hamadan and Shiraz in May in which he denounced several clerics, some of whom hold important political positions.
Public attacks by officials against high-ranking clerics are extremely rare in Iran and Palizdar’s speeches have been covered prominently by opposition media abroad. One of his speeches was videotaped and has been posted on the Internet.
Some of the clerics Palizdar criticized are political opponents of Ahmadinejad, the country’s elected president and a self-styled enemy of corruption. His power is sometimes eclipsed by clerics who oversee the government.
Mehrdad Bazrbash, a politician in Ahmadinejad’s faction, said the comments were part of a conspiracy against the government aimed at creating “disagreement among officials,” according to a report in the pro-government Iran newspaper.
Palizdar was arrested on Wednesday morning and charged by a Tehran prosecutor with “propagating lies” and “confusing public opinion.” An Iranian bank, Mellat, also pressed charges against Palizdar for not paying back a business loan worth approximately $6.6 million that he received 16 years ago, Farsnews reported.