According to Arab paper, former leader’s comments against Rouhani government amid rallies have led authorities to seek to place him under house arrest
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been arrested by authorities for allegedly inciting unrest against the government, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Saturday, citing “reliable sources in Tehran.”
The newspaper said that Ahmadinejad, during a visit to the western city of Bushehr on December 28, said, “Some of the current leaders live detached from the problems and concerns of the people, and do not know anything about the reality of society.”
He supposedly added that Iran was suffering from “mismanagement” and that the government of President Hassan Rouhani “believes that they own the land and that the people are an ignorant society.”
According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Ahmadinejad’s comments, which came as anti-government protests over the economy were heating up, led to his arrest.
The newspaper said authorities now seek to impose house arrest on the former president.
The Times of Israel could not independently confirm the report.
Iran’s state TV on Saturday showed pro-government rallies in several cities, starting with Amol, in the northern province of Mazandaram, with hundreds of people waving the Iranian flag and chanting slogans against the US and Israel.
State TV described the rally as a “response to rioters and supporters of the riots.” Other pro-government demonstrations were held in Shahin Dezh, in West Azarbaijan province bordering Turkey; the city of Semnan, in the northern Semnan Province; and Shadegan, in the southern Khouzestan Province near Iraq.
The rallies are meant to be a show of force against anti-government protests that broke out in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, on December 28, and have since spread to several other cities and towns. The protests were sparked by a hike in food prices amid soaring unemployment. Some demonstrators have called for the government’s overthrow.
At least 21 people have been killed, and hundreds have been arrested. Large pro-government rallies have been held in response, and officials have blamed the anti-government unrest on foreign meddling.
BETHLEHEM (AFP) — Palestinians protesting church land sales to Israelis scuffled with Palestinian police in Bethlehem Saturday as they tried to block the arrival of the Holy Land’s Greek Orthodox patriarch for Christmas celebrations.
Demonstrators scuffled with club-wielding Palestinian security forces and banged on the sides of police escort vehicles but patriarch Theophilos III passed safely in his black limousine to the Church of the Nativity for the traditional Orthodox Christmas eve observance.]
Official Palestinian news agency WAFA said he joined heads of the Syrian and Coptic Orthodox churches in the ancient church, which Christians believe marks the birthplace of Jesus.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office told AFP he would attend midnight mass celebrated by Theophilos at the church on Saturday and would present him with a model of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre church as a Christmas gift.
The Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala municipalities in the West Bank had called for a boycott over the Greek Orthodox church allegedly allowing controversial sales of its property in mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem to groups aiding Jewish settlement there.
They had urged the public to stay away but it was not immediately known if there was a significant drop in attendance compared to previous days or what effect driving rain in Bethlehem may have had.
At least some official invitees were at the church to welcome Theophilos, WAFA said on its English-language website.
“He was received by Palestinian officials, including the governor of Bethlehem Jibrin Bakri and Minister of Tourism Rola Mayaya among others,” it wrote.
The mayor of the Christian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, earlier said he wanted Theophilos removed from his post over the controversial land sales.
“Our move today is a protest against the patriarch over the sale of land of the Orthodox,” mayor Nicola Khamis told AFP.
The church elected Theophilos in 2005 after dismissing his predecessor Irineos over an alleged multi-million-dollar sale of church land to Jewish buyers.
But Khamis says the practice continues.
“Theophilos ignored all the demands and continued selling this land even if the [Christian] majority is against it,” he said.
“Today we are taking a stand to say the patriarch must stop the selling of the land.”
Property transactions with Jewish buyers anger Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
In August, Theophilos himself denounced an Israeli court ruling upholding deals made before his appointment between the church and Israeli pro-settlement organization Ateret Cohanim for two hotel properties near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.
He said the church would appeal to Israel’s supreme court over the ruling.
According to Hebrew media, the 2004 agreements were for 99-year leases on hotel properties near Jaffa Gate.
The church went to court against Ateret Cohanim, claiming the deals were signed illegally and without its authorization.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest and wealthiest Christian Church in Israel.
Its Jerusalem patriarchate commands massive wealth, largely in land portfolios in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.
Most Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, while those in the West observe it on December 25 because of differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Grappling with tens of millions of dollars of debt, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem has managed to balance its books by selling and leasing plots to a number of overseas companies all headed by Jewish investors, senior figures in the Greek Orthodox Church told The Times of Israel recently.