Pro-Ahmadinejad Former Prosecutor Arrested in Iran

Saeed Mortazavi was dismissed over the torture deaths of three protesters in 2009; timing of arrest suggests link to Mortazavi's role in feud between the Iranian president and Parliament Speaker Larijani.

Reuters
Reuters
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Reuters

A former Iranian prosecutor at the center of a growing confrontation between two of Iran's most powerful figures has been arrested, according to a statement posted Tuesday on the Tehran prosecutor's website.

No reason was given for the arrest, but the timing suggested it might be linked to the role of the former judicial official, Saeed Mortazavi, in a dispute between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

"The Tehran prosecutor announced Monday night that Saeed Mortazavi has been arrested," read the one-line statement.

Iran's Fars news agency reported Mortazavi was taken to Evin Prison, and said he was arrested as he was leaving work.

Mortazavi was dismissed from his judicial post over the torture deaths of three protesters in custody after the 2009 presidential elections, which the opposition claimed was rigged in Ahmadinejad's favor, bringing huge crowds into the streets.

Fars said Mortazavi's arrest on Monday could be linked to his involvement in the prison deaths. The spokesman for Iran's judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, said in January that Iran's court would address the cases in March.

But Mortazavi's name surfaced in another context on Sunday, when Ahmadinejad accused the parliament speaker's family of corruption, deepening a long-standing feud between the two powerful political figures months before an election.

In a speech meant to defend one of his ministers against impeachment, Ahmadinejad played a tape he said showed a meeting between Ali Larijani's brother Fazel and Mortazavi in which Fazel Larijani attempted to use his family's prominent political status for financial gain.

Both Fazel and Ali Larijani denied the accusation of corruption, and Fazel Larijani said he would file a legal complaint against Ahmadinejad and Mortazavi. The head of Iran's judiciary is Sadeq Larijani, Fazel and Ali's brother.

Labour Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, who was dismissed by parliament on Sunday, appointed Mortazavi last year to head the social security office, against lawmakers' wishes.

Dubbed by some as "the butcher of the press," Mortazavi had a central role in shutting down reformist newspapers and arresting dozens of journalists.

Human Rights Watch has previously described Mortazavi as a "serial human rights abuser" whose "unsavory history goes back many years."

"Over the last decade, his (Mortazavi's) name has been closely linked to most, if not all, of Iran's human rights related imbroglios," said Yasmin Alem, a U.S.-based expert on Iran's electoral system.

Saeed Mortazavi, then top Iranian prosecutor, at Tehran conference in 2009.Credit: Reuters

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