A close aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been given a one-year jail sentence for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a hardline website said on Sunday, the latest sign of a deepening rift within Iran's leadership.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr is one of several high-level aides to Ahmadinejad targeted by hardline rivals who accuse the president of being in the grip of a deviant current of advisers seeking to undermine the role of clergy in the Islamic establishment.
The high-level feuding coincides with increasing international pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme and preparations for a March 2 parliamentary election that, in the absence of a viable opposition, will largely be a contest between hardline conservative factions.
The Mashreghnews website report did not spell out how or when Javanfekr, who is managing director of the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and media adviser to Ahmadinejad, allegedly insulted Khamenei.
Javanfekr's lawyer later confirmed the sentence, according to students news agency ISNA. Javanfekr has 20 days to appeal. Judiciary officials were not available for comment and Iranian state media were silent on the matter.
Javanfekr also has been stripped of membership of political parties, groups, associations and media activities for five years, Mashreghnews reported.
The semi-official Fars news agency said two other people closely associated with the deviant current - whom it did not identify - had been convicted of espionage and economic corruption and would be punished with jail terms, fines and lashings.
One of the two individuals ... has been charged with four offences, the first of which carries a five-year jail sentence for spying for the U.S., British and Italian intelligence services, Fars said.
Word of the verdict against Javanfekr came two months after he managed to avoid being arrested when his offices were raided following his conviction for an apparently unrelated offence.
With the opposition Green movement crushed after hitting the streets to protest at what they said was a fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009, the battle for power in Iran is now between rival hardliners - the traditional religious hardliners and the more populist, nationalist Ahmadinejad camp.
That rift came to the fore in April when Khamenei reinstated Ahmadinejad's sacked intelligence minister.
Since then parliament and the judiciary, run by Ahmadinejad's political rivals, have moved against the president, with lawmakers threatening impeachment and prosecutors arresting some people on the fringes of his faction.
Javanfekr's conviction in November, for publishing an article about Islamic dress that was deemed offensive to public decency, also included a three-year ban from journalism.
It was not immediately clear on Sunday whether Javanfekr would serve either jail term.
(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Editing by Mark Heinrich)