Iran court acquits ex-nuclear negotiator of spying charges

However, Hossein Mousavian still convicted of acting against government; Ahmadinejad accused of trying to eliminate rivals.

court gavel 88 (photo credit: )
court gavel 88
(photo credit: )
An Iranian court acquitted a former nuclear negotiator of spying charges Tuesday, but convicted him of acting against the Islamic government, a judiciary spokesman said. The Iranian government charged Hossein Mousavian earlier this month with passing classified information to foreigners, including the British Embassy. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called him a "spy" and made a veiled reference to Mousavian and other critics of his nuclear policies, branding them "traitors." "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," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters Tuesday. Jamshidi said Mousavian has been served with a "writ of suspension," meaning the court decided to suspend his sentence. But the spokesman said a sentence against him couldn't be ruled out if the prosecutor objected to the judge's decision. Mousavian, who was a deputy of the top nuclear negotiator under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, was briefly detained in May, allegedly on accusations of espionage. Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, himself a former judge, had claimed that Mousavian's crime was "obvious and provable." Mousavian's former boss, Hasan Rowhani, who served as chief nuclear negotiator under Khatami, sharply criticized Ahmadinejad last week for prosecuting Mousavian and accusing the hard-line president of trying to eliminate rivals. Rowhani's comments, published in several Iranian newspapers, were the latest in the mounting rivalry between Ahmadinejad and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful figure in Iran's clerical leadership. The former president's camp, which includes Rowhani, Mousavian and Iran's older, more experienced politicians, has increasingly criticized the president for mismanaging the economy and creating enemies in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. 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, Rowhani delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to Ahmadinejad's policies, saying they are turning more countries against Iran and failing to fix the struggling economy. Rowhani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and sits on the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council, another influential clerical body. Jamshidi said the judiciary has not been and won't be influenced by politicians and issues verdicts based on documents and the law but said no one was authorized to make judgments about the case before a verdict is issued. His comments were seen as a mild criticism of Ahmadinejad and his subordinates for calling Mousavian a spy.