Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has criticized the judiciary for carrying out flogging sentences against people charged with insulting the president.

The Tabnak website reports that in a meeting of Iranian governors the Iranian president said: “When bigwigs get away with libeling the president, I am not willing to see a young man get flogged for insulting the president.”

Ahmadinejad is likely referring to the case of journalist Peyman Aref, who was released from prison on Sunday after serving a one-year sentence, but only after he was also subjected to 74 lashes.

His torturous punishment was ordered by the Revolutionary Court for the charge of insulting the president. In addition to the one-year sentence, the member of the reformist National Front is also under a lifetime ban from journalistic and political activity.

Following the controversial presidential election of 2009 and widespread protests over Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory, many activists were arrested and sentenced on the charge of insulting the president.

Ahmadinejad’s government and his close circle of aides and advisors have faced accusations that they are involved in the $3-billion bank fraud recently revealed in the Iranian media.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the charges but insists he will say nothing further on the subject in the interest of national unity.

Despite the persistent criticism of Ahmadinejad and his allies by the conservative elite, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently urged the media to refrain from highlighting news of the bank fraud so the judiciary can pursue the matter in peace.

Since the Supreme Leader’s call for restraint, Parliament has shelved a motion to impeach the president for his alleged connection to the bank fraud.