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Media Watch | Update: Mortazavi Ordered Back to Post by Ahmadinejad


16 Apr 2012 23:53Comments

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MortazaviRing.jpg[ update ] Radio Zamaneh reports that Saeed Mortazavi, after a brief resignation, was back at his post Monday as chief of Iran's Social Security Organization by order of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the website,
The impeachment of the Labour Minister [Abdolreza Sheikholeslami] for appointing Mortazavi was supposed to happen [Sunday], but the signatories to the impeachment motion withdrew their signatures after senior MP [Gholam Ali] Haddad Adel assured them that Mortazavi had promised to resign from his position.

[Ali] Motahari, a Tehran MP, said [Monday] that Mortazavi's resignation lasted only half a day and that the MPs had been deceived. He added, however, that impeachment is still an available option that should be firmly embraced.

Fars [News Agency, a semioffical news service controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] reported that Mortazavi returned to the Social Security Office [...] and met with the organization's deputies.


[ in focus ] Saeed Mortazavi, nicknamed the "Butcher of the Press," is back in the news. Born in 1967 in the town of Taft in the central province of Yazd, he joined the Basij militia when he was very young, and then, without any legal education, was hired by the Yazd judiciary. At 20, he was appointed chief judicial officer of the town of Babak. He also worked in the court system of Rafsanjan, in Kerman province. He was arrested on the charge of having raped a young woman but released, apparently because he was a relative of Ayatollah Ali Meshkini (1922-2007), a powerful conservative cleric. In 1994, he assumed a post with the Tehran judiciary.

After Mohammad Khatami was elected president in 1997, he allowed the press to flourish in relative freedom. It was here through Mortazavi, who had been appointed as prosecutor in the Tehran judiciary's Branch 1410, that the hardliners began their counterattack against the press. Mortazavi shut down at least 120 newspapers, magazines, and other publications. In the course of just two days in April 2000, he closed 16 major reformist dailies, a day after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei referred to the reformist press as propagandists for the enemy. In one case, he ordered the closure of the magazine Adineh, even though the press court had voted against it. When the hardline newspaper Kayhan was taken to court in 1998, Mortazavi dissolved the entire court to prevent a conviction.

From 2002 to 2009, Mortazavi was Tehran prosecutor. Many of the leading journalists and reformist political figures were subjected to show trials in his court and given long jail sentences. In July 2003, Dr. Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian American photojournalist, was arrested and killed while in detention at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. Her skull had been fractured in at least two places, and the medical examiner said that the cause of death was blows to her head with a "solid object." Mortazavi was identified as the leading suspect in the murder, but nothing ever happened to him.

In 2008, he was accused of selling copies of a certification examination for judges, colloquially referred to as "entehaar-e ghazaaei" (judiciary suicide), as opposed to "emtehaan-e ghazaaei" (judiciary test). A statement signed by eight hardline Majles deputies accused Mortazavi of committing the crime. But instead of prosecuting Mortazavi, the judiciary went after some of his accusers.

After the June 2009 presidential election, many reformists were arrested on his order, based on arrest warrants that had been issued and dated before the elections -- many of them continue to languish in jail. At least 147, and quite possibly many more young protestors, were detained in the Kahrizak detention center on Tehran's southern edge, usually reserved for common criminals. At least five young protestors -- Mohsen Rouhalamini, Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadifar, Ahmad Nejati Kargar, and Ramin Ghahremani -- were murdered at Kahrizak. Identified as one of the primary culprits along with Judge Hassan Haddad Dehnavi and Ali Akbar Heidarifard, Mortazavi was supposedly prosecuted, but nothing ever happened to him. Instead, in September 2009 judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani appointed him as deputy to the state prosecutor-general, though he was later sacked after the Majles conducted an investigation into the Kahrizak murders. The following January, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed him as the head of the anti-narcotics organization. Majles deputies strongly protested the move, but Ahmadinejad dismissed their objections as politically motivated.

Last month, Ahmadinejad's labor minister, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, announced that Mortazavi has been named to lead the Social Security Organization (SSO, or Saazmaan-e Tamin-e Ejtemaaei), a gigantic government-controlled institution that provides medical insurance and care to millions of Iranians. The Majles again protested his appointment, and several deputies threatened to seek Sheikholeslami's impeachment. At first, the president -- though politically weakened after the parliamentary elections earlier in March -- refused to back down, and reportedly sent a message to the legislators declaring that if Sheikholeslami were impeached, he would appoint Mortazavi as acting labor minister. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi publicly declared the administration's strong support for Mortazavi.

Thus, led by Elyas Nedaren, a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, 20 Majles deputies demanded that Sheikholeslami be summoned to parliament to be questioned and possibly impeached over the appointment. (At least 12 deputies must sign such a summons order for it to be enforced; see the list of the deputies here.) One of the deputies subsequently withdrew his support for the impeachment, leaving 19 signatories. The Majles accused Mortazavi of crimes at Kahrizak, financial corruption, and many other violations of the law. Tehran Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in a press conference on April 11 that although his predecessor had dismissed the case against Mortazavi for the murders at Kharizak, the family of Kamrani had protested the decision and the case had been reopened.

Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, an influential Majles deputy and close relative of Khamenei, asked Ahmadinejad on national television to appoint someone else to the post. On Saturday, Mortazavi reportedly met with Haddad Adel and told him that he would resign. Haddad Adel wrote a letter to the Majles deputies relating the statement and suggesting that the move to impeach the labor minister be dropped.

At the parliament's session on Sunday, 18 out of the 19 deputies who had sought to summon Sheikholeslami withdrew their support for the impeachment. Prominent Ahmadinejad critic Ali Motahari was the only one who did not. Afterward, there were conflicting accounts of what would happen or had already occurred. Deputy Kazem Jalali said, "As far as I know, neither the labor minister nor the president has accepted Mortazavi's resignation, and in fact the president came to the Majles to defend his minister." Mohammad Reza Mir Tajeddini, vice president for parliamentary affairs, said that the president has not made any promises to the Majles regarding Mortazavi's possible resignation. Deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, another leading Ahmadinejad critic, declared that Mortazavi had called him to tell him that he had resigned and was staying in his home. Hardline deputy Parviz Sorouri, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, also said that if Mortazavi returned to work, the impeachment proceedings against Sheikholeslami would be reactivated. One-time Guard officer Ali Reza Zakani, also a member of the legislature's hardline faction, said that not only had Mortazavi resigned but that he had read his resignation letter to those deputies who wanted to impeach Sheikholeslami.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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