TEHRAN, Iran, AP – A military figure and at least 25 other people have been arrested for suspected election violations during the first round of presidential voting last week, the state-run news agency reported Thursday.
Full details of the alleged infractions were not given, but some were linked to distribution of CDs and other material, the Islamic Republic News Agency said, citing a statement by election overseers in the Interior Ministry.
Election officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the investigation and when the arrests occurred.
The report, however, bolstered allegations of voter intimidation and other abuses in last Friday”s vote that could have boosted Tehran”s hard-line mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, into second place to earn a spot in the run-off. Ahmadinejad faces veteran politician Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday in Iran”s first head-to-head presidential ballot.
The IRNA report said a "military person" was among those arrested. No other details were given, but a statement from Iran”s armed forces said none of its personnel was implicated. That would point toward the elite Revolutionary Guards or the paramilitary "basiji" vigilantes — both considered firm supporters of Ahmadinejad.
The third-place finisher, former parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi, claimed the Guards and others strong-armed voters to cast ballots for Ahmadinejad. He also accused the ruling clerics of overlooking other alleged violations such as multiple voting by one person.
The report said about 20,000 pamphlets were also confiscated. In Iran, it is illegal to make unsubstantiated charges against a political rival during the campaign.
A total of 148 claims of violations were reviewed by a joint committee comprising intelligence, police and judicial officials. At least 44 were linked to "military personnel," the report added.
"Violators of the elections misused public funds to distribute millions of CDs against me and, unfortunately, officials have not decided what to do about them yet … I hope they will be treated according to the law," Rafsanjani said on state television late Wednesday.
Rafsanjani was shaken in the first round with Ahmadinejad right on his heels — 21 percent to about 19.5 percent. Pro-reform groups have set aside differences and tried to rally behind Rafsanjani, 70, who served as president from 1989-97 and later moved into a key post in the theocracy.
A series of street rallies in Tehran and elsewhere on Wednesday sent the message that Iran”s hard-won social and economic reforms would be stifled by Ahmadinejad.
The Tehran mayor denies he seeks to bring back the rigid Islam in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But his inner circle of backers includes some of Iran”s most radical and anti-Western clerics.
The campaign period officially ended Thursday. Pro-reform newspapers, however, were filled with editorials against intolerance and neo-Fascism as indirect attacks against Ahmadinejad.