Aide to Ahmadinejad sentenced to a year in jail for insulting Khamenei

An embattled aide to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sentenced to a year in jail for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reported today, citing Iranian media.

The jail sentence for Ali Akbar Javanfekr continued feuding between the Iranian president and hardline rivals who have targeted aides to the president and say his advisors comprise a "devious current" seeking to undermine the role of the clergy in the Islamic Republic, according to Reuters. Hardline factions are battling for supremacy in the approaching parliamentary elections in March.

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The report cited by Reuters, carried by the conservative website Mashreghnews, did not say when Javanfekr, managing director of the Islamic Republic News Agency, had purportedly insulted Khamenei (state media were also silent on the matter) but according to Reuters the Iranian Students News Agency spoke to Javanfekr's attorney, who confirmed that his client had been sentenced. He has 20 days to appeal.

"Javanfekr also has been stripped of membership of political parties, groups, associations and media activities for five years," Mashreghnews reported, according to Reuters.

Javanfekr had since November been under a three-year ban from journalism after publishing an article deemed offensive to Islamic dress. According to the Associated Press, the Mashreghnews report also said a five-year ban on journalism had been imposed for this latest conviction.

Javanfekr's offices were raided two months ago following his conviction for an apparently unrelated offense.

Reuters said the semi-official Fars news agency reported that two other unidentified people linked to the "deviant current" had likewise been convicted of espionage and corruption and would be punished with jail terms, fines and corporal punishment.

"One of the two individuals…has been charged with four offences, the first of which carries a five-year jail sentence for spying for the U.S., British and Italian intelligence services," Fars was quoted as reporting.

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The parliament and judiciary, which are run by Ahmadinejad's rivals, have moved against the Iranian president since April, when Khamenei reinstated the intelligence minister, whom Ahmadinejad had fired. Lawmakers have threatened impeachment, according to Reuters.

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