Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Iran: Tensions Escalate as Ahmadinejad Ally is Arrested
by Asharq Al-Awsat (The Middle East)
London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saeed Mortazavi, a former Tehran prosecutor general has been arrested, state media reported.
Mortazav, a close aide of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the latest causality in the on-going power struggle between the Iranian president and parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
Mortazavi was Tehran city prosecutor in 2009, during massive protests in the wake of Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election. At the time, he was responsible for Kahrizak prison in the Iranian capital, where at least three anti-government protesters were tortured to death. He now heads the country's social security fund.
Iran's reformists have openly criticized Mortazavi during his years in the judiciary. He was even dubbed "butcher of the press" for the closures of more than 120 newspapers and the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and political activists over the past 13 years.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said Mortazavi was detained at midnight Monday while Fars, another semiofficial news agency, said he was detained as he was leaving work and taken to Evin prison, just north of Tehran.
Fars also said the arrest was related to Mortazavi's role in the 2009 prison deaths of the protesters. The following year, a parliamentary probe into the case found Mortazavi responsible for what had happened at Kahrizak. He was suspended as Tehran prosecutor general and the case remained open for a judicial investigation, though no further action was taken against Mortazavi.
Mortazavi's detention came a day after Ahmadinejad displayed in parliament a barely audible video showing Fazel Larijani, brother of parliament speaker Ali Larijani, meeting with Mortazavi and allegedly seeking a bribe in return for ensuring his brother's support for the president. Ali Larijani denied any links to the video.
Ahmadinejad strongly denounced Mortazavi's arrest, accusing the judiciary of being run as a "family institution" — a reference to the Larijanis. Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, another brother of Ali Larijani, is Iran's judiciary chief.
"The judiciary should be the judiciary of the nation and not one special family's private organization," said Ahmadinejad in remarks posted on the president's website.
"This is very ugly. It's not appropriate for the people of the Islamic Republic and the judiciary," Ahmadinejad said ahead of his departure to Egypt where he is to attend a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. "I'll definitely pursue this matter seriously when I return."
On Sunday, Iranian lawmakers impeached the country's labor minister and another Ahmadinejad ally, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, for appointing Mortazavi as head of the social security fund.
In other news, Ahmadinejad arrived in Cairo on Tuesday, marking the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Egyptian television footage showed.
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi welcomed Ahmadinejad, who is on a three-day visit, will attend an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation conference in Cairo and will hold talks with Egyptian officials, Iranian media said ahead of the trip.
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Posted by Sally Zahav at 2:10 AM