An Iranian court acquitted a former nuclear negotiator of spying charges today but convicted him of acting against the Islamic government.
The Iranian government charged Hossein Mousavian earlier this month with passing classified information to foreigners, including the British Embassy, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called him a “spy” and “traitor”.
Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said today: “There were three charges raised against Mousavian: Spying, keeping confidential documents and propagating against the ruling system. He was found not guilty of the first two but found guilty of propagating against the system.”
Mr Jamshidi did not provide any details of the possible sentence against Mousavian, who was a deputy of the top nuclear negotiator under the reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami.
The former negotiator was briefly detained in May but is free on bail.
Mousavian’s former boss, Hasan Rowhani, who served as chief nuclear negotiator under Mr Khatami, sharply criticised Mr Ahmadinejad last week for prosecuting his colleague.
Mr Rowhani’s comments, published in several Iranian newspapers, were the latest in the mounting rivalry between Mr Ahmadinejad and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful figure in Iran’s clerical leadership.
The former president’s camp, which includes Mr Rowhani, Mousavian and Iran’s older more experienced politicians, has increasingly criticised the president for mismanaging the economy and creating enemies in Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West.
Mr Rafsanjani – head of the Assembly of Experts, one of the powerful cleric-run bodies that dominates the country’s politics – has emerged as a leader of disillusioned conservatives who once supported the hardline president.
In October, Mr Rowhani delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to Mr Ahmadinejad’s policies, saying they are turning more countries against Iran and failing to fix the struggling economy.
Mr Rowhani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and sits on the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council, another influential clerical body.