Hardliner Whistle-Blower Sentenced To Jail In Iran Warns His Peers

A whistle-blower who had exposed wrongdoing and violations by a few senior conservative political figures in Iran has been handed a jail sentence for two years.

Vahid Ashtari, a young man who is a member of Edalat Khahan [Justice Seekers], a political group of mainly university students who are loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, released a video on social media on Sunday, July 24, to warn others that whistle-blowing could be costly.

Ashtari also posted a court ruling based on which he has been sentenced to two years in jail for “spreading lies and disturbing the public’s peace of mind.” However, he said that he was never officially indicted.

In April this year, Ashtari revealed that the family of Majles (parliament) Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf had visited to Turkey to buy baby clothes and accessories for Ghalibaf’s daughter who was pregnant at the time. He also claimed that Ghalibaf’s wife, daughter and son-in-law arrived at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport from Istanbul with apparently a large layette set they bought from Turkey. People at the airport didn’t recognize them at first but when a photo of the family circulated on social media, their identity was revealed.

The accusations were followed by a barrage of criticism, and resurfacing of other alleged corruption cases against the family including spending hefty amounts on purchasing properties in Istanbul. Ghalibaf’s family and some of the country’s officials and political figures initially denied the report but after a while they gradually confirmed Ashtari’s account.

Earlier, Ashtari and his colleagues in the Justice Seekers group had made revelations about the role of one of President Ebrahim Raisi’s relatives, Meysam Nili, in giving government jobs to people close to them, and called the case “Meysam Gate.”

Ghalibaf chairing a parliament session on May 25, 2022

Ghalibaf chairing a parliament session on May 25, 2022

In his video and social media posts on Sunday, Ahtari welcomed his arrest and questioning at police stations, security organizations and courtrooms and said “It is good that young hardliners go to these places and find out what happens to activist workers and teachers and see the true nature of the religious political system 43 years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

He called on Hezbollahis [hardline political activists who support the Islamic Republic and its leader] to pay special attention to this case and read the ruling.

Ashtari said: “Even after reading it, you may still not understand it because it is not a court ruling. It is a political editorial. But if your objective is to reform the appearance of the religious political system, you can see for yourself the true nature of the regime and how Islam works in the Judiciary and security system.”

He “suggested to the devoted youths who blindly defend everything in the regime to find out what is going on behind the façade of Islam, sanctities and martyrs the officials take advantage of.” However, he promised that “the situation in Iran will not remain like this.”

The court ruling shows that Ashtari has also been accused of “discrediting state officials and mudslinging against them, portraying the country in a bad light and ridiculing a headline in Khamenei’s official website.”

Iranian analyst Ehsan Mehrabi told Iran International TV in London that although an official indictment has not been issued and Ashtari is entitled to an appeal, the reason why he has been given the jail sentence is that powerful officials wanted to send a message to all that no one, even a well-known conservative figure devoted to Khamenei, can get away with levelling accusations against regime insiders.

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