Speaking on Tuesday, at a regular judicial press conference, the alleged culprit was named as Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, an Iranian citizen.
The spokesman for the judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said Majd had given information on Suleimani’s movements to the CIA and the Israeli intelligence agency in return for cash.
He said the death sentence will be carried out by hanging shortly after his guilt had been upheld by the revolutionary court and confirmed by a separate court.
Suleimani was killed by a US drone in Baghdad on 3 January alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi, an Iraqi militia aligned to Tehran. He had been on a delayed private flight from Damascus to Baghdad allegedly to meet either Iraqi militiamen, or politicians, and was struck by a reaper drone in a small convoy of cars just as it left the airport in the early hours of the morning. Donald Trump had personally approved his killing days before.
Iran retaliated by striking the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq, an attack that in turn led the Revolutionary Guards firing missiles on 8 January at a Ukrainian civilian passenger plane leaving Tehran in the mistaken belief that the plane was an incoming US missile. A total of 176 people died in the crash and a dispute about handing over the black box flight recorder to either Canada or Ukraine remains unresolved. Iran says it has arrested six people in connection with the downing of the jet, three of whom remain in custody.
Suleimani’s death led to an outpouring of grief and anger in both Iran and parts of Iraq since he was regarded by many Iranians as a martyr in the battle to rid the Middle East of American troops. For years, the general had been the Revolutionary Guards’ most influential political and military figure, in effect conducting Iranian military operations in both Syria and Iraq.
His death was regarded as a coup by the White House which viewed him as the second most powerful man in the Iranian regime. It justified the drone strike by saying it had intelligence of imminent attacks on US interests.
Iran has claimed that Suleimani had been visiting Baghdad for negotiations about the future shape of the next Iraqi government, including a meeting with the then prime minister.
After his killing, the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel foreign troops from its soil but discussions about the future of US troops have been delayed.
Following last week’s release and repatriation of a US citizen, Michael White, from Iran, and the release of Iranian national Majid Taheri from imprisonment in the US, Trump wrote on his Twitter account on Friday: “Thank you Iran. Don’t wait until after the US election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!”
In what may have been a reassertion of its authority over the fate of foreign prisoners in Iran, Esmaili said it was for the judiciary and not other forces to decide what should happen. He said a total of 128,600 prisoners had been temporarily released from jail due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, but gave no news about the fate of two British-Iranian dual nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been on furlough at her parent’s house since March, but Ashoori has not been released.
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