Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been arrested and charged with being “magicians,” as part of a continuing feud between the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Several dozen people close to Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei have been arrested in the past few days and charged with sorcery and “invoking djinns (spirits),” The Guardian reports. Another man arrested, Abbas Ghaffari, was described by a news site in Iran as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds.”
The feud stems from Ahmadinejad’s unprecedented refusal to back the Ayatollah’s decision to reinstate Iran’s intelligence chief.
As Al Jazeera English explains:
Ahmadinejad sacked the country’s intelligence chief, Heydar Moslehi last month, in a move that Khamenei quickly overruled, reinstating Moslehi.
Following the move, the president effectively went absent without leave, skipping cabinet meetings for 10 days in anger over the reinstatement.
AJE reports Ahmadinejad returned to work May 1st, but there’s been some speculation that he could still resign.
Analyst Mehrdad Khonsari, with the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, explained to AJE that the controversy “shows the level of disunity at the very top of the Iranian [political] hierarchy [with] Ahmadinejad having already polarised the internal political scene as a result of fraudulent election results that were announced more than 20 months ago.”
Ed Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly noted Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff as having been arrested.