Iran minister found guilty of fraud

Associated Press / July 28, 2009

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TEHRAN - An appeals court found Iran’s industry minister guilty of fraud, newspapers reported yesterday, in a new embarrassment for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he faces disputes with his own hard-line camp over his government.

Ahmadinejad has been feuding this past week with hard-liners, first over his appointment for vice president - whom he was forced to drop - then over his dismissal Sunday of his intelligence minister. Some hard-liners contend Ahmadinejad’s government must be put to a parliamentary vote of confidence.

The rift comes on top of the upheaval over Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election. The pro-reform opposition contends that Ahmadinejad’s victory in the vote was fraudulent and that its leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was the rightful winner.

The conviction of Industry Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian, a close ally of the president, could give rivals further ammunition.

The case was sparked by claims by an Iranian researcher that Mehrabian had stolen his idea for an “earthquake saferoom.’’ The case could fuel complaints that Ahmadinejad keeps close allies in top positions despite questions on their integrity.