An Iranian responsible for leaking information about the powerful general Qassem Suleimani but without direct involvement in his assassination by the US in January has been sentenced to death and will be hung shortly, the Iranian judiciary has said.
Speaking on Tuesday, at a regular judicial press conference, the alleged culprit was named as Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, an Iranian citizen.
The spokesman for the judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said Majd had given information on Suleimani’s movements to the CIA and the Israeli intelligence agency in return for cash but the judiciary’s media office later clarified he had been in jail at the time the general’s convoy was attacked in Baghdad.
Esmaili said the death sentence will be carried out by hanging following the guilty being upheld by the revolutionary court and confirmed by a separate court.
“Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, one of the spies for the CIA and the Mossad, has been sentenced to death ... He had shared information about the whereabouts of martyr Suleimani with our enemies,” Esmaili said.
“He passed on security information to the Israeli and American intelligence agencies about Iran’s armed forces, particularly the Guards.
A later statement said that Mousavi-Majd’s conviction was not linked to “the terrorist act of the US government” in Suleimani’s killing in Iraq. “All the legal proceedings in the case of this spy ... had been carried out long before the martyrdom of Suleimani” the statement said, adding that Mousavi Majd had been arrested in October 2018.
Suleimani was killed by a US drone in Baghdad on 3 January alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi, an Iraqi militia aligned to Tehran. He had been on a delayed private flight from Damascus to Baghdad allegedly to meet either Iraqi militiamen, or politicians, and was struck by a reaper drone in a small convoy of cars just as it left the airport in the early hours of the morning. Donald Trump had personally approved his killing days before.
Iran retaliated by striking the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq, an attack that in turn led the Revolutionary Guards firing missiles on 8 January at a Ukrainian civilian passenger plane leaving Tehran in the mistaken belief that the plane was an incoming US missile. A total of 176 people died in the crash and a dispute about handing over the black box flight recorder to either Canada or Ukraine remains unresolved. Iran says it has arrested six people in connection with the downing of the jet, three of whom remain in custody.
Suleimani’s death led to an outpouring of grief and anger in both Iran and parts of Iraq since he was regarded by many Iranians as a martyr in the battle to rid the Middle East of American troops. For years, the general had been the Revolutionary Guards’ most influential political and military figure, in effect conducting Iranian military operations in both Syria and Iraq.
The Iranian judiciary also used the press conference to reassert their authority over the release of foreign prisoners from Iran’s jails. Iran last week released and allowed the repatriation of a US citizen, Michael White, from Iran, in return for the release of Iranian national Majid Taheri from imprisonment in the US.
In what may have been a reassertion of its authority over the fate of foreign prisoners in Iran, Esmaili said it was for the judiciary and not other forces to decide what should happen. He said a total of 128,600 prisoners had been temporarily released from jail due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, but gave no news about the fate of two British-Iranian dual nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been on furlough at her parent’s house since March, but Ashoori has not been released.
In a bid to restart talks on a revised nuclear deal, Trump has tweeted in response to the release of White last Friday saying: “Thank you Iran. Don’t wait until after the US election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!”
The Iranian government has rejected any new talks unless America rejoins the existing deal alongside European powers, Russia and China.