Alleged Iranian spy facing execution, was arrested 'months before' Soleimani assassination

Alleged Iranian spy facing execution, was arrested 'months before' Soleimani assassination
Mahmoud Mousavi Majd had been detained and imprisoned by Iranian authorities months before Soleimani's assassination, the Iranian judiciary's official media outlet has since said.
3 min read
10 June, 2020
The judiciary have stopped short of linking Mousawi Majd directly to the assisination [Getty]
Iran's judiciary announced on Tuesday that Mahmoud Mousavi Majd faced execution after being convicted of supplying information on the whereabouts of slain Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani to the US and Israel, in exchange for large sums of money.

No further details were provided by judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili, such as when Majd, a hitherto unknown figure identified only as the son of "Sayyid Kahdhim", would face execution.

The judiciary also stopped short of providing information directly linking Majd to Soleimani’s assassination, who was killed alongside powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, after a US drone strike targeted their convoy as they left Baghdad airport on 3 January.

Hours after the spokesman's statement on Tuesday, the managing director of Mizan - the official media outlet of Iran’s judiciary - took to social media to clear up lingering doubts over the Esmaili’s statement.

Mahdi Keshtdar wrote on Twitter that Mousawi Majd had been detained and imprisoned in Iraq before Soleimani's death. According to Keshtdar, Mousawi Majd had allegedly provided the CIA and foreign intelligence with details on the location and movement of various IRGC commanders, including Soleimani, well before the latter's assassination.

According to Mizan, Branch 15 of Iran's Revolutionary Tribunal began investigating Majd's case immediately after his arrest on 10 October 2018 and issued a death sentence less than a year later.

The Islamic Republic's Supreme Court reportedly took issue with the judgement and called for a retrial. In late February this year the Revolutionary Tribunal upheld its decision, which received no opposition from the Supreme Court.

Mizan's account has also been corroborated by Mohammad Mehdi Hemmat, the son of famed IRGC leader Mohammad Ebrahim Hemmat, who died in the Iran-Iraq War. Mohammad Mehdi wrote that Mousawi Majd had no role in the "martyrdom" of Soleimani at Baghdad Airport.

With the details Majd's alleged espionage remaining murky, his alleged knowledge of Soleimani's movements and whereabouts suggest that he may had served in the Quds Force, various Iran-backed militia, or the Islamic Republic's religious missions in Iraq, according to Iranwire.

The only other figure to have been accused of similar charges is dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam, the founder of Amadnews, a banned Telegram channel that the Iranian authorities accuse of playing a major role in a wave of anti-government protests that broke out in December 2017.

Read more: Iran detains France-based opposition journalist in mysterious intelligence operation

Paris-based Zam, described by Iranian authorities as a "counter-revolutionary" and "directed by French intelligence", was arrested in October last year, in what the IRGC claimed was a "sophisticated operation".

In February, around the exact time Mousawi Majd's spy sentence was upheld, Iranian media reported that Zam had "confessed that declaring the time and place of operations in Syria, travelling of commanders, especially of martyr General Qassem Soleimani" had been one of his "own missions".

It remains to be seen whether the two cases are linked.

The IRGC have claimed that one of Zam's past informants is Mohammed Hossein Rostami, the former editor of ultra-conservative Ammaryoun website. Rostami, a hardline IRGC activist, was arrested by authorities in 2016 for charges of spying for Israel.

He was accused of relaying information on the whereabouts of Iranian forces in Syria, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Rostami alleges that he was forced to make accusations under duress and has said that his arrest was orchestrated by an IRGC intelligence chief for leaking details of their business and corruption scandals.

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