Iran opened the high-profile trial of a former senior judiciary official alongside 21 accused accomplices on Sunday in Tehran, charging them with corruption, money laundering and influence trading.
In a rare move state television broadcast the hearing live, focusing on the accused Akbar Tabari, the former deputy head of administrative affairs at the judiciary.
Tabari “obstructed the execution of justice” against influential senior Iranian officials “by forming a criminal group” within his office which “became a center… for certain accused (individuals) to settle their cases,” his indictment said, according to official judiciary news agency Mizan Online.
Tabari and 21 other defendants were tried by the 5th chamber of Tehran’s criminal court, presided over by judge Hassan Babaie.
The former official worked as the financial director during the mandate of Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who headed Iran’s judiciary from 1999 to 2009.
Tabari was later promoted to the head of executive affairs and then executive deputy under Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani from 2009 to 2019, according to state news agency IRNA.
In March 2019, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei replaced Larijani with Ebrahim Raisi, a religious conservative, and called on him to work “against corruption.”
According to IRNA, Raisi “dismissed Tabari eight days after taking office,” without specifying a reason.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili confirmed Tabari’s arrest on July 2019, saying that it “proves the seriousness of the judiciary… to fight against corruption, especially if it is within” it.
Former judge Bijan Qasemzadeh is among the co-accused at the trial.
He is best known for ordering the blocking of Telegram, the most popular messaging service in the Islamic republic at the time.
Esmaili announced in June 2019 that three judges were involved in Tabari’s case, one of whom is still in office.
Raisi vowed to make the fight against corruption in the justice system his “first priority” shortly after coming to power, followed by unprecedented trials targeting judges and senior Iranian officials.
Two former members of parliament were recently sentenced to 61 months in prison for manipulating the country’s auto market.
Iran ranks 146th out of 198 countries in the latest corruption perception index published by the Transparency International NGO.