Friday 29 March 2024

Iranian Top Cleric's Speech Canceled After Alleged $20 Million Theft

Kazem Seddiqi - Wikipedia 


Following public outcry over allegations of financial embezzlement, one of Iran’s most prominent clerics will not be speaking at a significant Ramadan ceremony as previously planned.

Ultra-conservative Tehran Imam Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi is accused of stealing land worth $20 million – as exposed by journalist Yashar Soltani.

According to documents released by a whistleblower, Sedighi and his children obtained a 45,200 square foot garden in a prime location in the north of Tehran.

The Imam Sadiq University, affiliated with the regime’s hardliners, announced the cancellation of Sedighi’s speech citing “its interference” with the Ayatollah’s schedule.

Sedighi was set to speak there on the occasion of the Night of Destiny (Laylat al-Qadr), an important religious ceremony for Muslims in the month of Ramadan.

The original announcement of the speech however, was met with negative reactions from Iranians who denounced his inclusion in the program as offensive given the recent reports of the cleric’s alleged financial embezzlement.

Adjacent to a seminary established by Sedighi, the allegedly stolen land – originally under the seminary's ownership – was transferred to a privately-owned company controlled by the cleric and his two sons, as revealed by the documents.

Initially, Sedighi denied any knowledge of the transfer of ownership, claiming his signature had been forged by a trustee.

But, later reports indicated that it was Sedighi who had personally signed the transfer documents at a notary public.

Despite public outrage over the allegations, the Iranian judiciary has not taken any legal action against the cleric – who is known for his close ties to the country’s ruler, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Last week, in reaction to the allegations against the cleric, Iran International TV’s "Your Side of the Story" program received numerous messages from citizens.

They expressed their profound distrust of the Iranian regime – which they describe as "systematically corrupt" and beyond reform.

Many Iranians on social media have drawn comparisons between the leniency shown towards Sedighi's alleged "grand theft" and the regime's extreme harshness in dealing with other citizens accused of minor offenses.

Last month, the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization (IHRNGO) reported that Iran’s judiciary amputated the fingers of a 35-year-old man for allegedly stealing five sheep from a farm belonging to a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).