Although the parliament had accepted Khatami's appointment of a moderate interior minister days earlier, the heavy sentence handed down to Karbaschi is a warning shot to the president. With elections for the legislature set for 2000, the conservatives aren't going out without a fight. But with Karbaschi's original arrest having sparked riots, the judge had the foresight, on the grounds of the mayor's "social standing," to suspend the lashes.
Sixty lashes, five years in prison and more than $6 million in penalties -- that is the price Tehran's mayor will have to to pay for supporting Iran's moderate president Mohammed Khatami. In a sign of the intensity of the country's power struggle, a conservative judge convicted Gholamhossain Karbaschi on corruption charges arising from what Karbaschi himself described as his "bending of the rules" to help finance Khatami's election campaign. "Although Khatami won the hearts of the people, hard-liners kept the instruments of power," says TIME Middle East bureau chief Scott MacLeod. "They control the army, the police, the courts and the parliament."