Hardline whistleblower sentenced to prison in Iran warns his peers

A whistleblower who exposed wrongdoings and violations committed by a few conservative political figures in Iran has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Vahid Ashtari, a young man from Edalat Khahan [Justice Seekers]a political group made up mainly of university students loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, posted a video on social media on Sundayon July 24, to warn others that whistleblowing could be costly.

Ashtari also released a court ruling on the basis of which he was sentenced to two years in prison for “spreading lies and disturbing the peace of mind of the public”. However, he said he was never formally charged.

In April this year, Ashtari revealed that the family of the speaker of the Majles (parliament), Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, had traveled to Turkey to buy baby clothes and accessories for Ghalibaf’s daughter who was pregnant at the time. He also claimed that Ghalibaf’s wife, daughter and son-in-law arrived at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport from Istanbul apparently with a large layette set they bought from Turkey. People at the airport didn’t recognize them at first, but when a photo of the family circulated on social media, their identity was revealed.

The accusations were followed by a barrage of criticism and the reemergence of other alleged corruption cases against the family, including large expenditures for the purchase of properties in Istanbul. Ghalibaf’s family and some officials and political figures in the country initially denied the report, but after a while they gradually confirmed Ashtari’s account.

Earlier, Ashtari and his colleagues from the Justice Seekers group had made revelations about the role of one of President Ebrahim Raisi’s relatives, Meysam Nili, by giving government jobs to people close to them, and called the case “Meysam Gate”.

Ghalibaf presiding over a parliamentary session on May 25, 2022

In his video and social media posts on Sunday, Ahtari welcomed his arrest and questioning at police stations, security organizations and courtrooms and said, “It’s good that young extremists travel to these places and find out what is happening to militant workers and teachers and see the true nature of the religious political system 43 years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

He appealed to Hezbollahis [hardline political activists who support the Islamic Republic and its leader] pay close attention to this case and read the judgment.

Ashtari said, “Even after reading it, you might still not understand it because it’s not a court ruling. This is a political editorial. But if your goal is to reform the appearance of the religious political system, you can see for yourself the true nature of the regime and how Islam works in the justice and security system.”

He “suggested to devoted young people who blindly defend everything in the regime to find out what is going on behind the facade of Islam, the sanctities and martyrs that the officials take advantage of.” However, he promised that “the situation in Iran will not remain like this”.

The court ruling shows Ashtari was also accused of “discrediting state officials and insulting them, portraying the country in a bad light and ridiculing a headline on Khamenei’s official website”.

Iranian analyst Ehsan Mehrabi told Iran International TV in London that although no formal indictment has been issued and Ashtari has the right to appeal, the reason he was sentenced to a prison sentence is that powerful officials wanted to send a message to everyone that no. one, even a well-known conservative figure devoted to Khamenei, can get away with bringing charges against regime insiders.

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