By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Published: November 27 2007 12:26 | Last updated: November 27 2007 12:26
Iran’s judiciary has found former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian not guilty of espionage and keeping classified documents, in a move considered to be a blow to the government of president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
Ali-Reza Jamshidi, the judiciary spokesman, told Iranian reporters on Tuesday that Mr Mousavian faced another charge of “propaganda against the system” which was still being investigated.
The court’s decision when finalised needs to be confirmed by the prosecutor general.
Mr Mousavian was arrested by the intelligence ministry in May and detained for 10 days on security charges. More recently he was accused by the intelligence minister of passing information “against the country’s national security” to the British Embassy in Tehran.
At the time of his initial arrest it was reported that former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had intervened in the case to have Mr Mousavian released.
In recent weeks Mr Ahmadi-Nejad had threatened to publicly identify what he described as “nuclear spies” in a clear reference to former nuclear officials and claimed the judge in the Mousavian case had come under pressure to acquit him.
The government spokesman on Tuesday called for an “open trial” to address “public concerns”, and called for the judge to issue his verdict “without political, financial and social influences”.
Jomhouri-Eslami, an influential conservative newspaper and critic of the government, last week urged the judiciary to “sue” anybody found to have made false allegations in the Mousavian case “no matter in what position”.
Former officials close to Mr Mousavian said the president believed he could exploit international tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme to improve the chances of his supporters in parliamentary elections in March by painting opponents as weak on the issue.
“Mr Mousavian will be found guilty for some minor issues, but both the judiciary and the judge believe there is nothing in his file to find him guilty unlike what the government insists,” one said.
Since losing his job along with other nuclear negotiators - attached to the previous reformist government - Mr Mousavian had acted as defacto spokesman for the former team who opposed a confrontational approach in nuclear policy.
He openly criticised Mr Ahmadi-Nejad for calling United Nations resolutions against Iran - imposed because of its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment - “torn pieces of paper” and warned that Tehran could not ignore the potential damage of being under UN security council sanction easily.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007