Iran's most prominent Sunni cleric has criticized the government for its failure to tackle widespread financial corruption in the country, citing a multi-billion scandal implicating former and current high-ranking officials.
In July, the Inspection Organization disclosed that a prominent tea importer has been under scrutiny for its financial practices. The company allegedly received $3.5 billion in foreign currency at a discounted government rate for tea and machinery imports from 2019 to 2022, and reportedly sold $1.4 billion of the currency on the free market at a higher rate.
"While people of all walks of life are suffering from severe economic hardship, embezzlement continues unabated," Molavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni prayer leader of the southeastern city of Zahedan, said in his sermon on December 8.
"Fundamental changes are needed to eradicate corruption from our country," the outspoken cleric added.
Molavi has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide anti-establishment protests in September last year, using his sermons to call for fundamental economic, social and political changes in the country.
In another part of his sermon, he raised “serious concerns” regarding the wave of arrests and executions across the country, as well as the use of torture to obtain confessions from inmates.
"Capital punishment is not in line with the principles of Islamic law," Molavi asserted.
Earlier in the day, Zahedan’s Makki Mosque announced that Molavi's Friday prayer sermon would be broadcast on his YouTube channel because his Instagram live broadcast was "blocked."
As in recent weeks, the Friday prayers were held amid tight security measures, with video footage showing military forces deployed in the streets around the mosque.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, which is home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.
The restive city has seen protest rallies almost every Friday since September 30 of last year, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident in the nationwide demonstrations.