Under-fire Iran speaker responds to 'lies' about family trip

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is seen (left) meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey, in December 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

TEHERAN (AFP) - The speaker of Iran's Parliament on Saturday (April 30) responded to days of criticism after his family was seen stocking up on baby products from abroad as millions of Iranians face crippling economic conditions.

Conservative Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has been in hot water for almost two weeks after pictures emerged of his wife, daughter and son-in-law returning from Turkey with items including clothes for his unborn grandchild.

A hashtag critical of Ghalibaf went viral on social media, with many users sharing a 2017 video in which he called for officials who shop abroad instead of supporting local products to be censured.

Ghalibaf said Saturday that he had opposed his family's trip as "not advisable", but alleged critics had "told stories about the shopping" in an effort to discredit the parliament.

"All of that was a lie," ISNA news agency quoted him as saying before a parliamentary session.

He cited allegations that his family had gone abroad to buy property with forged documents.

"The Parliament has done great things in these two years, and they are trying hard to damage" its name, he said.

Iran's economy has suffered under stringent sanctions reimposed by the United States after it unilaterally pulled out of a deal with world powers on Iran's nuclear programme in 2018.

Official data indicates inflation hovers around 40 per cent.

Ghalibaf is a member of the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological arm of Iran's military.

He was previously a mayor of Teheran and commander of the national police force, and ran for the presidency in 2017.

In 2020, he was elected as speaker of the conservative-dominated parliament.

Ghalibaf's son Elyas has called his relatives' trip to Turkey an "unforgivable mistake".

It is "definitely wrong in these economic conditions", he wrote on Instagram earlier this month.

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