Iran's conservative-led judiciary on Tuesday denied it had cut a deal not to prosecute former culture minister Ayatollah Mohajerani on corruption charges in exchange for his resignation last week.
"The justice department has no information on how the former minister resigned and accordingly is not entitled to make any comments on the issue," it said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"The judiciary, irrespective of Mohajerani's resignation and other (relevant) issues, will carry out its legal duties," it said, adding that no decisions had yet been made in his case.
Mohajerani, a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami, is reportedly being investigated for alleged misuse of funds belonging to the state pilgrimage organization that was under his ministry's control.
Khatami on Thursday accepted his resignation after rejecting his attempts to step down earlier in the year, just before the courts launched a sweeping crackdown on the press that saw more than 25 papers shuttered.
Mohajerani had previously suggested that he was staying in office in part because he wanted to face the inquiry into the alleged misuse of funds in his capacity as minister.
He survived an impeachment scare last year when the parliament was still in the hands of conservatives angry over his "laxity" in controlling the press, whose licenses are issued by the culture ministry.
He was a frequent target of conservative attacks and some reformists have suggested the president was forced to sacrifice the popular minister in order to keep alive his chances for re-election next year.
"(Some) analysts are confident that by accepting Mohajerani's resignation, the president is sending a strong signal regarding his own determination to stay the course and run for a second term," the reform-leaning Iran News said in an editorial Tuesday.
Khatami has yet to make a formal declaration about whether he will seek a second term, the maximum permitted under the Iranian constitution, at the polls in June -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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