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Iran arrests former vice president and aide to Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad and Mashaie at a press conference in 2013 [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 March, 2018

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Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie's arrest comes after he protested the recent jailing of another of Ahmadinejad's vice presidents.
Iran's former vice president Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie was arrested on Saturday, AFP reported.

Mashaie, an aide and chief-of-staff to hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was "arrested and is in detention," said Tehran's prosector. 

The prosecutor has not specified what Mashaie was detained for but said police acted on the orders of the judiciary.

Mashaie served as first vice president in 2009 at the start of Ahmadinejad's contested second term in office. His tenure was cut short after saying Iran was a friend of the US and Israeli people - supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forced his departure.

Mashaie's arrest came after he showed up outside the British Embassy on Thursday to protest the jailing of another of Ahmadinejad's vice presidents. 

Hamid Baghaie was arrested on Tuesday after a 15-year jail sentence was issued against him in December - a court had found him guilty of embezzlement and illegal business transactions.

"My client was probably arrested for having recently burnt (a copy) of Mr. Baghaie's verdict outside the British embassy," said Mehran Abdollapour, Mashaie's lawyer.

Both Ahmadinejad and Baghaie hoped to stand in the May 2017 presidential election, but the conservative-dominated Guardians Council rejected their candidacy.

Meshaie was also earlier barred from standing in the 2013 presidential election. 

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad defended his long-time ally, calling Mashaie "pure, courageous and revolutionary". 

"His arrest is clearly a violation of the constitution... that confirms the need for fundamental reforms within the judiciary," the former president said in a statement.

In February, Ahmadinejad called for immediate free presidential and parliamentary elections, but most observers viewed the comments as a sign of growing desperation.

The ex-president, who oversaw bloody repression of protests in 2009, has seen his popularity decline rapidly. 

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