Ahmadinejad allies arrested on suspicion of sorcery
Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were arrested this week for being "magicians" and invoking spirits, Iranian website reported on Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as well as other people close to the Iranian president were accused of invoking djinns.
One of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, was called "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds," Iranian news site Ayandeh reported.
Ahmadinejad has many critics on the right who accuse him of seeking more power for himself at the expense of other state bodies such as parliament.
Many conservative clerics have also criticized Rahim-Mashaie, his closest aide, for promoting an "Iranian school" of Islam, which they consider a dangerous nationalistic stance.
Ahmadinejad's close relationship with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - the senior cleric who has the last word in the Islamic Republic's affairs - was strained two weeks ago, according to some analysts, over the president's attempt to sack his intelligence minister, a move vetoed by the supreme leader.
Since then Ahmadinejad has missed two cabinet meetings - something some foreign analysts said was akin to a boycott.
Ahmadinejad attended his first cabinet meeting for more than a week on Sunday, dismissing rumors of a damaging split with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, news agencies reported.
Speculation began to circulate that Ahmadinejad no longer enjoyed the unqualified support of Khamenei, something the government denied. Khamenei had endorsed his re-election in June 2009 in a vote the opposition said was rigged.
Ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting, the head of national broadcaster IRIB told news agencies that Ahmadinejad would express his allegiance to Khamenei.
The jostling for influence is happening less than one year before a parliamentary election set to be a battle among fellow conservatives. Leading reformist candidates are unlikely to be allowed to stand if they are deemed too close to the opposition "Green" movement, which the establishment considers to be part of a foreign-backed conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic system.