A simmering rivalry between Iran’s president and powerful adversaries within the conservative hierarchy spilled into the open Monday when judiciary forces briefly arrested his top media adviser, who also runs the official news agency and a leading newspaper, witnesses and Iranian news accounts said. The witnesses said the adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was handcuffed for an hour in a raid on his Tehran office and released only after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to come personally and free him. The security forces used tear gas when they barged into the office, the witnesses said, and they arrested at least 32 other people. It was not clear whether the others had been released. Javanfekr is the chief executive of the official Islamic Republic News Agency, known by its acronym, IRNA, and the manager of IRNA’s print affiliate, Iran, the official daily newspaper. He is one of the most powerful figures in publicizing Iran’s government policies and messages to the outside world. Details on the exact circumstances of the raid were not clear. But the episode appeared to be the most dramatic instance in which the friction between Ahmadinejad and conservatives in the government emerged in the open; the president’s conservative critics have increasingly challenged him over what they regard as a “deviant current” of presidential advisers who want to subvert the authority of the Islamic clergy.
The catalyst for the Javanfekr’s arrest appeared to be a ruling Sunday by an Iranian court that Javanfekr had offended Islamic values by questioning the Islamic dress code for women. The court ordered him imprisoned for a year and barred him from working in journalism for three years, but Javanfekr had a few weeks to appeal the punishment.