Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest

File photo of Iran’s ex president Mahmud Ahmadinejad President. (Reuters)
Updated 28 March 2018

Iran’s Ahmadinejad says ally on hunger strike since ‘unjust’ arrest

TEHRAN: Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his ally Hamid Baghaie was on hunger strike and in deteriorating health after being imprisoned on what he said were politically motivated charges.
Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, made the claims in a letter to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, published on the Dolatebahar website run by his supporters.
It is the latest volley in a bitter feud with his former colleagues in the Iranian establishment — particularly the conservative-dominated judiciary — which has led him to demand wide-ranging reforms, including fully free elections.
“The judicial apparatus, without any documents or proof or legal citation... under the cover of financial accusations and in a closed trial — has condemned (Baghaie) to the severest possible punishment,” Ahmadinejad wrote in his latest letter.
Baghaie, who served as his vice president, was jailed this month for 15 years for embezzling 3,766,000 euros and $590,000.
Prosecutors said the cash was given to him by General Ghasem Soleimani, feted head of the external operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards, the Qods Force, and earmarked for “affairs to do with African countries.”
“Mr Baghaie has never accepted these accusations and he’s been on hunger strike for 14 days in protest at this injustice by the judicial apparatus,” Ahmadinejad said in the letter.
“It is heard that his physical situation is deteriorating. He’s been kept in solitary confinement since the first day of his arrest,” Ahmadinejad added, calling on Khamenei to step in to avoid a “big catastrophe and irreparable damage.”
In an earlier report on the Dolatebahar website, Baghaie was quoted as saying: “Suppose this impossible, fabricated story is true — should I be blamed, or should it be General Ghasem Soleimani as the authorized official in the Qods Force who has delivered the said foreign currency?“

Ahmadinejad and Baghaei claim no proof of the alleged transactions was presented at the trial in December.
Another of their associates — Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff Rahim Mashaie — was arrested this month after burning a copy of Baghaei’s verdict outside the British embassy.
A populist with close ties to the hard-line religious elite and Revolutionary Guards during his time in office, Ahmadinejad’s unruly style saw him fall out with the establishment and clash with Khamenei.
He has become a growing thorn in their side in recent years. Both he and Baghaie were barred from standing in last year’s presidential election by the Guardian Council, which vets candidates.
In another letter to Khamenei last month, Ahmadinejad called for “the immediate holding of free presidential and parliamentary elections — of course without their being engineered by the Guardian Council and without interference by military or security bodies so that people have a free choice.”
Ahmadinejad remains a hate figure for many reformists, who associate him with the bloody crackdown on mass protests in 2009 and 2010 that followed his contested re-election.
However, he remains popular particularly among poorer segments of society who recall the large-scale welfare schemes he implemented during his presidency.


Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

Updated 2 min 52 sec ago

Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

  • Senator Lindsey Graham urges retaliatory strikes on Iranian oilfields if Tehran continues ‘provocations’
  • Pompeo blamed Iran for attacks in Saudi Arabia   that disrupted oil production

WASHINGTON: An American senator has called for Washington to consider an attack on Iranian oil facilities as pressure grows in the US for a firm response to the Saudi Aramco strikes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the drone attacks on Saturday against the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the Khurais oil field. He also suggested that unlike previous drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom, this one may not have been launched from Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis. Reports have said that the attack may have originated in Iraq where Iran also holds sway over a large number of powerful militias.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator close to Donald Trump, said non Twitter.

“Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime's back.”

Iran on Sunday denied it was behind the attack, but the Yemeni Houthi militia backed by Tehran, claimed they had launched them. 

The White House on Sunday did not rule out a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, even after Washington accused Iran of being behind drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the attacks “did not help” prospects for a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly this month but she left open the possibility it could happen.

"You're not helping your case much," by attacking Saudi Arabia, civilian areas and critical infrastructure that affects global energy markets.” Conway told the Fox News Sunday program.

The Trump administration's sanctions and “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program will continue whether or not the two leaders meet, she added.

The US ramped up pressure on Iran last year after trump withdrew from an international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Washington has reimposed a tough sanctions regime on Tehran, which it accuses of hiding behind the nuclear deal to advance its missiles program and aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the attacks continued from around the world.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent any escalation.

UK foreign minister Dominic Raab said the attack was a “reckless attempt to damage regional security and disrupt global oil supplies.”

The European Union warned of a “real threat to regional security” in the Middle East.

*With Reuters