Ally of Iran's Ahmadinejad says sentenced to 63 years' jail

Tehran (AFP) –


A former deputy of Iran's hardline ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that he had been sentenced to 63 years in prison on financial charges.

Hamid Baghaie, who appeared in court in September and October and is free on bail, made the announcement on the Telegram messaging app without giving details.

On Tuesday, the judiciary-linked Mizan news agency quoted Tehran's judiciary chief as saying that a verdict had been issued and communicated to him.

The official said he could not elaborate until the verdict was final.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei had earlier said that Baghaie was charged with misappropriation, embezzlement and collusion in governmental transactions.

Given the multiple charges, it is possible that the 63-year sentence is the total of several that can be reduced to the longest single term.

Baghaie, 48, was vice-president for executive affairs and headed the tourism board under Ahmadinejad.

He was imprisoned for seven months in 2015 for reasons that were never made public, though he was previously investigated for irregularities during his time in office.

Both Ahmadinejad and Baghaie were barred from running in the presidential election in May by the Guardian Council, a powerful vetting body that oversees all elections.

Ahmadinejad has fallen out with the establishment, especially since he stood for the presidency this year despite the advice of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei not to do so.

A number of Ahmadinejad's senior aides have been arrested on financial and corruption charges.

Ahmadinejad has deep hostility toward the powerful Larijani brothers, two of whom lead the country's parliament and judiciary.

In 2013, when Speaker Ali Larijani was overseeing a minister's impeachment, Ahmadinejad accused the brothers of nepotism.

A heated exchange followed of accusations of coercion and bribery between the two.

Recently Ahmadinejad, who is still popular among the poor, has stepped up his attacks on the judiciary for putting Baghaie on trial.

This week, he challenged Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani in a video message to explain what he said were accusations levelled against him and his allies.

On Tuesday he called the top judge incompetent and the courts under his management "unjust".

Baghaie himself has been scathing about his trial by what he called a "kangaroo court".

The judiciary has been mostly tolerant of their insults and attacks.