Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s Minister for Communications and Information Technology, has been accused by the country’s hardline judiciary of “allowing Iranian data to be vulnerable to espionage”.
There is mounting concern in reformist circles over what fate awaits President Hassan Rouhani’s youngest minister, a 37-year-old politician who is a rising star. The judiciary has singled him out as among several top-flight officials who have allegedly acted against the Islamic Republic’s interests.
According to the judiciary, 2,000 people in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, which suffered a terrorist attack last September, and the general prosecutor's office have lodged a complaint against Jahromi. It is a move that could see him pushed out of office.
"Someone in the judiciary says they'll lodge a complaint against a young minister. Well, he is not at all intimidated and is doing his job," centrist, pragmatist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked, without naming Jahromi.
“Ok, then, lodge a complaint! The young minister is working for the benefit of the people and pays no heed to pointless orders," he added defiantly.
"Lack of safe space" on social media
A "lack of safe space" on social media in Iran "drew [people] to Takfiri [Wahhabi fundamentalist] groups and eventually led to the terrorist incident at the armed forces parade [in Ahvaz]", Javad Javidnia, a cyberspace official at the prosecutor's office, told news agencies.
The out of left field challenge to the minister related to the Ahvaz terrorist attack on the parade and bystanders left many observers scratching their heads.
Some 24 victims lost their lives in the incident. Senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders claim the attack was carried out by militants trained by Gulf states and Israel, and backed by the US. All the countries named by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC as partly responsible for the terrorism have denied any involvement.
Both an anti-government Arab group, the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahvaz, which seeks a separate state in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, and Islamic State militants claimed to be behind the attack, though neither group has presented evidence for their claim.
There is some speculation that the move to go after Jahromi is designed to lay shadowy groundwork for ending his career as a minister and stop him gaining a role in the next administration. Some commentators think Jahromi is a candidate for taking the mantle of Rouhani as president. He has previously stated that he is not seeking the top job. Nevertheless, he remains popular with young voters for dismantling internet barriers.
Jahromi lately told Mehr News: "The presidency in the country has a framework and a big decision that comes out of politics. But I am a technical person and my mission is in the Ministry of Communications.”