Iran Presidential Aide Detained for Backing Film About Mahdi

May 4 (Bloomberg) -- An Iranian cleric and presidential aide has been detained for backing a film about a key figure in the Shiite Muslim faith, state media reported.

Abbas Amirifar, who heads President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cultural council, was summoned by a special clerical court and arrested, the state-run Fars news agency reported May 2 without giving details. Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi declined to elaborate when asked today about accusations against Amirifar, Fars said.

Amirifar was arrested due to his cooperation in the making and distribution of a film entitled “The Coming Is Near,” the state-run Iranian Students News Agency reported, citing Jafari-Dolatabadi. The film suggests that the Mahdi, the Messiah-figure of Shiite Islam, is to appear soon.

The detention comes after reports of a rift between Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- the country’s highest authority -- over the resignation of the intelligence minister. Ahmadinejad, who had been absent from official meetings for a week, denied the reports when he returned to work on May 2, without explaining his absence.

Amirifar remains in detention and is under investigation, Rajanews.com, a pro-Ahmadinejad website, said yesterday citing an unidentified judiciary official.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.