DUBAI (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday accused the parliament speaker’s family of corruption, during an angry debate reflecting a struggle between the Iranian leader and rival factions in his final months in power.
The president used a speech defending a minister against impeachment to levy accusations of corruption against the family of speaker Ali Larijani, in a session marked by jeering and shouting.
The legislature voted 192 to 56 to remove labour minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami over what lawmakers said was the illegal appointment of Saeed Mortazavi, a former prosecutor accused of links to the deaths of prisoners.
Ahmadinejad said he had a tape of a private conversation between Fazel Larijani, the speaker’s brother, and Mortazavi, that proved the family had used the official prominence of the five Larijani brothers for economic gain.
The president played a portion of the tape but it could not be heard clearly in the chamber, so he read what he said was a summary of the conversations.
He claimed Fazel Larijani had implied in a meeting with Mortazavi that he could use his brothers’ influence to remove obstacles for private firms, in return for involvement in their projects.
“These are audio and video, and the tape is clear,” said Ahmadinejad, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). “If the honourable parliament speaker sees fit, we can turn over the 24 to 25 hours (of tape) to you.”
Ali Larijani, a possible presidential contender in elections to be held in June, fired back at Ahmadinejad, saying the president’s accusations had nothing to do with Sheikholeslami’s impeachment, and denying the charge of corruption.
“Our problem is that our president does not observe the basics of proper behaviour,” Larijani said. “Why did you discuss this issue here?”
Larijani continued: “Actually it’s a good thing ... that you played this tape today, so that the people better understand your character.”
At this remark, the chamber erupted in jeers. At one point, Ahmadinejad asked to speak again, a request Larijani denied, and Ahmadinejad left the chamber.
Ahmadinejad has hinted several times in the last year that he has evidence of corruption at Iran’s highest levels, but had until now declined to give specific evidence.
Divisions within Iran’s government have worsened in the past year, as Western sanctions levied over Tehran’s nuclear programme have limited oil sales and battered the economy.
Critical MPs have accused Ahmadinejad’s government of worsening the situation and adopting policies that have increased inflation.
The parliament called off plans to question Ahmadinejad for a second time in November after MPs were warned to back down by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s unelected ruler, who has called for greater unity in the runup to elections.
Ahmadinejad cannot run in the June elections according to Iran’s constitution, but analysts believe he may try to maintain his influence within Iran’s politics after stepping down.
Iran’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the labour minister after the rowdy session.
Mortazavi was suspended from his judicial post over the torture deaths of three protesters in custody after the 2009 presidential election, which the opposition claimed was rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour.
But Sheikholeslami appointed Mortazavi last year as the new head of the social security office, over the protests of MPs.
The dispute is seen as linked to a power struggle between Ahmadinejad and conservative factions hostile to him who dominate the legislature.
Editing by Andrew Roche